American Skin

Wow Bruce. That actually made me tear up. Lyrics below the fold.

41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots

41 shots, and we’ll take that ride Across this bloody river to the other side 41 shots, they cut through the night

You’re kneeling over his body in the vestibule

Praying for his life

Is it a gun?

Is it a knife?

Is it a wallet?

This is your life

It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret) A

in’t no secret my friend

You can get killed just for living in your american skin

41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots

41 shots, lena gets her son ready for school

She says now on these streets charles

You got to understand the rules

Promise me if an officer stops you’ll always be polite

Never ever run away and promise mama you’ll keep your hands in sight

Cause is it a gun?

Is it a knife?

Is it a wallet?

This is your life It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

No secret my friend

You can get killed just for living in your american skin

41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots

Is it a gun?

Is it a knife?

Is it a wallet?

This is your life

It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

41 shots and we’ll take that ride

Across this bloody river to the other side

41 shots my boots caked in mud

We’re baptized in these waters and in each other’s blood

Is it a gun?

Is it a knife?

Is it a wallet?

This is your life

It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

No secret my friend

You can get killed just for living in

You can get killed just for living in You can get killed just for living in

Your american skin
41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots

Author: has written 5284 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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19 Responses

  1. Lauren
    Lauren March 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

    OMGGG yesssss. I remember when this song came out about the young man murdered by police in New York with the infamous 41 bullets, and loving it. This feminist does, and always will, love Bruce Springsteen.

  2. Marksman2010
    Marksman2010 March 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm |

    As someone who loves language, I’d say those honest lyrics stick very hard.

    It’s like poetry–hell, it is poetry.

    “I’m a poet. And then I put the poetry in the drama. I put it in short stories, and I put it in the plays. Poetry’s poetry. It doesn’t have to be called a poem, you know.”

    –Tennessee Williams

  3. thorn
    thorn March 29, 2012 at 10:39 pm |

    This feminist does, and always will, love Bruce Springsteen.

    Is this the same bruce who has been implicated in cheating on his wife twice?

  4. EG
    EG March 30, 2012 at 12:23 am |

    Whoa, we as feminists shouldn’t love anyone who’s ever stepped out on a spouse, now? Forget it. Where do I turn in my card?

  5. ginmar
    ginmar March 30, 2012 at 10:20 am |

    Amidou Diallo. He was holding his wallet, apparently to show the cops.

    Yeah, let’s complain about Bruce Springsteen and make excuses for Hugo Schwyzer.

  6. Lori
    Lori March 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm |

    This song is so powerful. I remember hearing it at Madison Square Garden soon after the Amadou Diallo killing. You could have heard a pin drop in the arena. I think everyone was teary by the end of the song.

  7. Lauren
    Lauren March 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm |

    Marriage is obviously a feminist issue; I think we’d all agree on that. However, is cheating explicitly anti-woman and worthy of my derision as a feminist? I’m not so sure, because by saying that I’d be negating that a LOT of people cheat for a LOT of reasons, including self-proclaimed feminists/women/gays/lesbians/trans* individuals. Cheating is an issue, but it’s tied to larger issues of the usefulness of monogamy and oppression within marriage. That’s a conversation to be had, but without knowing the scenarios, I’m not sure that cheating itself is anti-feminist.

    In the meantime, I’ll continue to love Bruce Springsteen’s music. I should have clarified; I don’t love him personally, as I’ve never met him, but his music, and the general messages it sends.

  8. Lauren
    Lauren March 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

    Besides, when it comes down to it, I challenge anyone to find someone they admire that isn’t without their problems and privilege. It’s impossible. Maybe Bruce did cheat to exercise his male privilege; we’ll probably never know. And we can be critical of that, and some of his sketchier song lyrics, and still love his music, and feel that he tries hard to use his platform to undermine his privilege, even if he’s not always successful.

  9. Lauren
    Lauren March 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

    I know that I’m blowing up the thread here, but I also wanted to add this, which is a comment I wrote for another thread on Bitchmedia.org about “why feminists love Bruce springsteen.” Although not explicitly related to feminism, I wanted to point out other reasons I like The Boss, and how he helps to encapsulate some of my perspectives, as a white female from a blue-collar family

    “I am from a Northeast US blue-collar white family, and my dad made sure to raise me on the The Boss. To me, the best thing about Bruce, outside of complex lyrics and awesome riffs, is his ability to show that to be working-class and white is not necessarily to be politically conservative, especially on social issues. The working-class, as a group, has totally been co-opted into conservative policies, and so many people think that we blue collar people are uneducated, anti-gay, anti-feminist, etc. I think a lot of this is because so much working-class pop culture focuses on more of a rural, small town version, and plays up conservative politics found in these regions and states. The urban, factory element has been relegated to the “past,” but they and their children (like me) still exist, and some of us vote Democrat and believe in ending oppression. Rah Rah Country Music that promises to “stick a boot in your ass because that’s the American way” does not represent all blue collar voters. The Boss gives the liberal blue collar element a voice, and for that, he is invaluable.”

  10. sarahmarian
    sarahmarian March 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

    This is one of Bruce’s finest moments as an artist and person. Many of his fans threatened to boycott and walk out of those MSG shows (that was my first Bruce show, I’m going to three next month!), but he played the song anyway, and the fact that it remains so poignant, pertinent and applicable is sad, but speaks to his power as a songwriter.

    Thanks for posting, Jill!

  11. Shoshie
    Shoshie March 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm |

    I think a lot of this is because so much working-class pop culture focuses on more of a rural, small town version, and plays up conservative politics found in these regions and states.

    Right on! I’m a generation removed from my family’s working class roots (my grandfather was an electrician after he got out of the army), but they were always really left wing. I get a lot of my activism from my mom, who got it from her mom.

  12. Marksman2010
    Marksman2010 March 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

    Thanks for posting, Jill!

    +1

    Again, thank you for posting, Jill. Thank you!

  13. jeffliveshere
    jeffliveshere March 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    I can’t listen to Springsteen without thinking that he must have been supportive of Clerence Clemmons in 1997, when he was arrested for beating the shit out of his girlfriend. Which doesn’t make his music pleasurable for me.

    http://articles.latimes.com/1997-01-05/news/mn-15668_1_clarence-clemons

    http://billsprofeministblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/now-that-hes-gone-does-it-really-matter.html

  14. Jay
    Jay April 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm |

    This is the fourth or fifth video I’ve seen of Springsteen performing this song, and the tune always seems to get right to his guts. In this video, he looked at times enraged and saddened to the point of tears, and as he sang, he seemed to be on the verge of losing his voice.

    The first time I ever saw this live (pardon, I don’t want to come off like I was actually “there,” although I did see a free, brief, pro – Obama mini – concert put on by Bruce in Philly in ’08, during which, I’m sorry to say, he did not play “American Skin”), was on the HBO concert at which he premiered it, and in another show of emotion by Bruce, he asked the cheering crowd for quiet as the song started. A small thing? Maybe. But a couple of hours later, as I thought of the song against the backdrop of the progressive form of post – 9/11 patriotism I was trying to fashion as a ticked – off twenty year old all those years ago, it hit me that, in the moment during which he asked for calm, Springsteen was grabbing a connection between Amadou Diallo’s immigrant experience and his own family’s.

    In the Tampa video above, Springsteen is obviously thinking of Trayvon Martin, but that’s not all, in my view. Springsteen is an artist who contacted, and often got into deep conversations with, 9/11 families as a way to shape “The Rising.” Springsteen also cares deeply for our soldiers, and I’m sure the singer has asked, as so many of us have these past few weeks, “We have thousands of troops on the ground all over the place, and what the fuck for? Freedom? Certainly not the freedom to dress as you wish without fear of getting shot.”

  15. checksix
    checksix April 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm |

    Are you basing that on any actual evidence, Jeff?

  16. jeffliveshere
    jeffliveshere April 3, 2012 at 11:26 am |

    @checksix: evidence for what? Evidence that Clemons bit the shit out of his girlfriend is at the provided links in my original comment. There’s more if you care to google it.

    Evidence that Springsteen supported him? Well, he didn’t kick him out of the band, did he? I don’t think that it’s setting the bar too high to ask that somebody who beat up his girlfriend be asked to step down from the band.

    Or, if it was somehow more complex than that (Clemmons did a lot of anti-violence work a decade after he beat up his girlfriend), I’d think the band, or Springsteen, would have issued a statement to that effect–at least, that’s what I would have wanted, so that it didn’t just get swept under the rug, y’know?

    Having said all of that, my original comment was simply that *I* can’t listen to Springsteen without thinking about Clemmons, and I can’t think about Clemmons without thinking about the fact that he beat up his girlfriend. I suspect some others feel like I do, and that some people are more willing to…I dunno, let that go?

  17. checksix
    checksix April 3, 2012 at 1:33 pm |

    I read the links. I was asking for evidence that Springsteen was supportive of Clemens actions, not that Clemens did it.

    1. jeffliveshere
      jeffliveshere April 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm |

      @checksix: Ahah. Well, I take Springsteen’s silence about it, and the fact that Clemmons was still in the band as support. It’s the kind of support that folks-who-abuse often get, by the way–got to keep his job, his friends, to keep playing music…

  18. checksix
    checksix April 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm |

    Fair enough, I suppose. That’s more assuming than I’m inclined to do, but everyone has their own water marks for these things.

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