Friday, May 18, 2012

Lost Songs - The Klansman

Thank goodness for E Street Radio. The Sirius station really can’t be praised enough. In addition to giving us round the clock variety and live concerts, it exposes us to Springsteen songs we may never have heard otherwise. And as we’ve expressed before, Bruce has a seemingly never ending treasure trove of lost songs.

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to hear “The Klansman.” The audio quality on the version on YouTube is not the clearest, but it’s the best we’ve got for on demand listening. Like so many of Bruce’s songs, it’s pretty hard to understand what he’s signing the first few times you listen, but the more attention you give it, the more you'll be rewarded.

One of the many outtakes from the Born in the USA sessions (along with “Unsatisfied Heart”), “The Klansman” tells the story of a young boy being introduced to the Ku Klux Klan. A blog called Catholic Sensibility describes it as a song about a young boy being seduced by the allure of the Klan. But I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that. I think the song leaves enough room to view the narrator as an unwilling participant who witnesses his family and neighbors corrupted by the evils of the Klan and is unable to do anything other than cast a blind eye.

The lyrics are succinct, with no resemblance of a chorus, but they’re powerful and the picture it paints is frighteningly vivid. The music also has a haunting, yet captivating sound that is hard to mimic, but also hard to shake.

Word of the trouble spread around
One day a man came to my town
I was in the kitchen when my Pa let him in
He shook my hand, said, "The Klan's your friend"

Was a meetin' at Lyle Stanton's house
On the Jefferson Highway
Some, they did not listen
Some did not turn away

Said, "When the holy rain of fire
Comes tumblin' from above
It'll be a Klansman
Who stands for the land he loves"

Look away, look away now

I was ten years old when my Pa said,
"Son, some day you will see
When you grow to wear the robes
Like your brother and me

When the war between the races
Leaves us in a fiery dream
It'll be a Klansman
Who will wipe this country clean
This, son, is my dream".