Bruce Springsteen took over his E Street Radio SiriusXM station on Wednesday for the latest edition of his From His Home To Yours DJ broadcast series, which he started a couple months ago during the pandemic. He dedicated this week's show to George Floyd. Springsteen played songs inspired by the protests and talked throughout about the current situation in the US.
The first song he played was his own "American Skin (41 Shots)," a track Springsteen wrote in reaction to the 1999 murder of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo by the New York Police Department. "Eight minutes,” Springsteen said during the show. “That song is almost eight minutes long. That’s how long it took George Floyd to die with a Minneapolis officer’s knee buried into his neck. That’s a long time. That’s how long he begged for help and said he couldn’t breathe. The arresting officer’s response was nothing but silence and weight. Then he had no pulse. And still it went on ... May he rest in peace.
"As we speak, 40 million people are unemployed," he continued. "100,000 plus citizens have died from COVID-19 with only the most tepid and unfeeling response from our White House. As of today, our black citizens continue to be killed unnecessarily by our police on the streets of America. As of this broadcast, the country is on fire and in chaos."
He went on to play songs by Childish Gambino, Bob Marley, Kanye West, Paul Robeson, and Gram Parsons, per Rolling Stone. He played three Bob Dylan songs, including "Blind Willie McTell." Before that one, he said: "We remain haunted, generation after generation, by our original sin of slavery. It remains the great unresolved issue of American society. The weight of its baggage gets heavier with each passing generation. As of this violent, chaotic week on the streets of America, there is no end in sight."
Before playing Billie Holiday's recording of "Strange Fruit," he said: "One of the darkest songs in the American canon. The video of the death of George Floyd is a 21st century visual lynching and ‘Strange Fruit’ was written about the lynchings about black Americans after the Reconstruction and into the 20th century."
After playing a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. from Birmingham in 1963, Springsteen said this (via Asbury Park Press):
The Birmingham Movement was organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to bring attention to the integration efforts of African-Americans in Birmingham, Alabama. Their confrontations between young black students and white civic authorities led to the municipal government changing discrimination laws and was part of the broader movement toward civil rights that changed the face of the nation.
Now almost 60 years later, we wake again to an America who burned our buildings, torched police cars and shattered shop windows. The cost that we're paying for another half of a century of unresolved fundamental issues of race. We have not cared for our house very well. There can be no standing peace without the justice owed to every American regardless of their race, color or creed. The events of this week have once again proven that out.
We need systemic changes in our law enforcement departments and in the political will of our national citizenry to once again move forward to the kind of changes that will bring the ideals of the Civil Rights movement once again to life and into this moment.