He Ain’t No Military Son: Springsteen Can’t Resist Singing Anti-War Song at Veteran Tribute

Outspoken liberal rocker Bruce Springsteen did outspoken liberal things last night at HBO’s Concert for Valor. Taking the stage with Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl and Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band, “the Boss” launched into a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son”:

While Bruce is undoubtedly in fine grunt throughout the rendition, some have questioned the appropriateness of performing a Vietnam protest song at this particular concert, billed as a “first-of-its-kind event designed to bring artists, celebrities and millions of Americans together to honor the courage and sacrifice of veterans, active duty service members and their families.” Commenting at the Weekly Standard, Ethan Epstein writes,

The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at “the red white and blue.” It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Of course, this has drawn the typical media reaction that occurs whenever conservatives dare challenge the patriotism of a liberal: by singing about how much America sucks, Bruce is actually being more patriotic than Uncle Sam, George Washington and Superman COMBINED:

This reaction seems like… not really an accurate read of this song! Not really at all. Real patriotism entails exactly this: publicly challenging the status quo in a country you believe to be capable of better things. Besides (at the risk of stating the obvious), the song isn’t against soldiers; anti-chickenhawk. In related news: Fogerty literally played this song, last week, on the White House lawn.

Fogerty was drafted when he was 20 years old, in 1965, and came home from active duty two years later. In his own words, he was inspired to write “Fortunate Son” because “I did not support the policy or the war… If you asked anyone in the army at that time why we were going to Vietnam to fight, no one could answer… Probably the real answer was keeping the war machine going, and business. To sacrifice a young man’s life with no real purpose, taking these young men from their mothers and families, was wrong. I was the guy who was living this life… I had very strong feelings about all of this… To me, those soldiers were my brothers. I understood them because I was also drafted into the army just like them. The protest was against the policy, not the soldiers…

I get it: our active-duty service members fight, and our veterans fought, to defend Bruce Springsteen’s, and John Fogerty’s, right to criticize their country. And yeah, maybe “Fortunate Son” isn’t attacking the soldiers but, rather, the men behind the scenes who send them to war. But, at a concert that’s supposedly meant, in part, to honor the people who have voluntarily joined the military and gone off to fight for something they believe in, did Springsteen and co. have to pick this song? With literally every song ever to choose from, did they have to choose the one about how awful our use of military force has been, the one with the lyrics,

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask ’em, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer “More! More! More!”, y’all

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, one
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son, no, no, no

Couldn’t this event simply have been a celebration of our nation and the people who have sacrificed for it, rather than an opportunity to make a political statement?

Nah. That ain’t Bruce… no, no, no.