Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, “Paradise” (2002)

I remember thinking that “Paradise,” written from the point of view of a suicide bomber, was simultaneously haunting and touching. There are the last minute chilling thoughts mixed with dreams of older losses…or maybe the losses that are about to happen. Given the political sentiments of the time, it seemed like a brave move to be telling this story from the other side.

The weird thing is that Steve Earle did pretty much the same thing a few months later with “John Walker’s Blues.” That song, sung from the point of view of the “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, garnered Earle a ton of back chatter. Aside from Bruce’s song avoiding specifics, both tunes were in the grand tradition of the villain as protagonist. Was Johnny Cash glorifying murder in “Folsom Prison Blues”? Of course not. In any event, Earle (as opposed to Springsteen) took the brunt of the flack.

The music here is particularly affecting, especially the echoing vocals and rumbling, reverb-soaked electric guitar lines. And of course, it took on a life of its own during the Devils and Dust tour.

Up next: My City Of Ruins

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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