Music Monday: A Song for 9/11

The past few days have seen many musical tributes in honor of 9/11, so I thought I would add my own.

The Rising appeared on an album of the same name that Bruce Springsteen created shortly after 9/11. Based in large part on Springsteen’s reflections during the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the album predominantly centers upon themes of relationship struggles, existential crisis, and social uplift. (Wikipedia)

The song was written late in The Rising’s development, and was meant as a bookend to the album’s “Into the Fire”. Springsteen could not let go of one of the central images of that day, those who were “ascending into … what?” Thus, the song tells the story of a New York City Fire Department firefighter, climbing one of the World Trade Center towers after the hijacked planes had hit them during the September 11 attacks. (Wikipedia)

It gained critical praise and earned Grammy Awards for Best Rock Song and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, as well as a nomination for Song of the Year. Rolling Stone named it the 35th best song of the decade, and VH1 placed it 81st on its list of the “100 Greatest Songs of the ’00s”.

The song found a second life years later, politically.

Springsteen performed “The Rising” during his solo acoustic Change Rocks appearances during early October 2008 at Barack Obama’s registration and vote rallies. The song was also played immediately following Obama’s victorious presidential acceptance speech on the night of November 4, 2008 in Grant Park in Chicago. Rolling Stone later remarked of its use there, “when its metaphor of struggling through darkness was blasted at Obama’s victory celebration, it became a national anthem for the 21st century.”

Springsteen opened the January 18, 2009 We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial with the song. It was performed by Springsteen on acoustic guitar, backed by a 125-member female choir in red gowns.

Springsteen himself remarked upon the distance the song had travelled, saying: “You write ‘The Rising’ for this, it gets picked up and used for that, so you end up here. If someone had told me in 2001 that ‘you’re going to sing this song at the inaugural concert for the first African-American president,’ I’d have said, ‘Huh?’ But eight years go by, and that’s where you find yourself. You’re in there, you’re swimming in the current of history and your music is doing the same thing.”

And now, nearly 20 years later, here is this powerful song, followed by the lyrics.

Can’t see nothing in front of me
Can’t see nothing coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder half mile of line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearing the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rolling down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li, li li li li

There’s spirits above and behind me
Faces gone black, eyes burning bright
May their precious blood bind me
Lord as I stand before your fiery light

Li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li, li li li li

I see you Mary in the garden
In the garden of a thousand sighs
There’s holy pictures of our children
Dancing in a sky filled with light
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine (ooh ooh ooh)
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancing on the end of my line (ooh ooh ooh)

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life) (ooh ooh ooh)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life) (ooh ooh ooh)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burning wind fills my arms tonight (ooh ooh ooh)
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life

Come on up for the rising
Come on up lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li li, li li li li li
Li li, li li, li li li li
Li li, li li li li li (come on up for the rising)
Li li, li li li, li li li li li (come on up)
Li li, li li li, li li li li li (come on up for the rising)
Li li, li li, li li li li (come on up)

*image from A Pop Life

25 thoughts on “Music Monday: A Song for 9/11

  1. This is one of those songs that immediately takes me back to various moments in my life, all completely different, and the music and lyrics take on a completely different meaning for each memory. I love the impact his words and music have on so many of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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