Bruce Springsteen Live Debuted "American Skin" 20 Years Ago

"You can get killed just for living in your American skin." Bruce Springsteen sang these chilling words 20 years ago. Sadly, nothing has changed. This past week, people have been restlessly protesting police brutality against Black people, and the racism that still runs rampant in this country.
For decades protest anthems have exposed the cruelty and unjust treatment Black people and POC experience daily, yet it still goes unheard. It's taken years for it to reach the boiling point - the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer has outraged the masses, but he's not the first.
In Springsteen's song "American Skin (41 Shots)," he outlines the true story of Amadou Diallo, a young 23-year-old immigrant who was killed by FOUR plain-clothed white police officers in 1999. They fired 41-shots at him outside his apartment in New York City, 19 of which killed the defenseless, unarmed man. The officers claimed they thought he was a rape suspect, but they were completely wrong. An innocent life taken for absolutely no reason.
When Springsteen live debuted the song on June 4th, 2000 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, it was the first time anyone ever heard it and some of his fan base weren't too happy. That didn't stop the Boss as he repeated the words "41 shots" making sure it stuck whether people liked it or not. A recorded version ended up being released 14 years later on his album High Hopes.
All 4 officers had been acquitted of the murder but Springsteen knew how unjust and unfair the system has been toward Diallo; and it's not for nothing because over the next 20 years hundreds of innocent black men, women, and even minors have lost their lives at the hands of the police.
What made Springsteen's protest anthem so powerful was that he didn't care about the criticism he received by his fan base which includes the NYPD. Even former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani gave Springsteen a hard time for writing the song, claiming the officers were innocent.
BS has been standing alongside Black lives as an ally for a longtime now. Diallo's mother said the song made her believe that people DO care about what happened to her son. Springsteen has since performed the song over 100 times, the last being just this past October.
Any true Boss fan knows this wasn't his first rodeo with political songs. Even "Born in the USA," which many mistake as a patriotic anthem, is in fact about the way the USA turned its back on Vietnam veterans after they returned home.
BS performed the song at the June 4th, 2000 show as well, acoustically. Check out the entire 24-song setlist below.
Bruce Springsteen
We'll leave the song's lyrics below to meditate on:
(41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots)
41 shots, and we'll take that ride 'Cross the bloody river to the other side 41 shots, cut through the night You're kneeling over his body in the vestibule Praying for his life
Is it a gun, is it a knife Is it a wallet, this is your life It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret) It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret) No secret my friend You can get killed just for living in your American skin
(41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots)
41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school She says, "On these streets, Charles You've got to understand the rules If an officer stops you, promise me you'll always be polite And that you'll never ever run away Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight"
Is it a gun (is it a gun), is it a knife (is it a knife) Is it a wallet (is it a wallet), this is your life (this is your life) It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret) It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret) No secret my friend You can get killed just for living in your American skin
(41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots) (41 shots)
Is it a gun (is it a gun), is it a knife (is it a knife) Is it in your heart (is it in your heart), is it in your eyes (is it in your eyes) It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret) It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret) It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret)
41 shots, and we'll take that ride 'Cross this bloody river to the other side 41 shots, I got my boots caked with this mud We're baptized in these waters (baptized in these waters) And in each other's blood (and in each other's blood)
Is it a gun (is it a gun), is it a knife (is it a knife) Is it a wallet (is it a wallet), this is your life (this is your life) It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret) It ain't no secret (it ain't no secret) No secret my friend You can get killed just for living in You can get killed just for living in You can get killed just for living in your American skin
41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots
41 shots 41 shots 41 shots 41 shots
41 shots (you can get killed just for living in) 41 shots (you can get killed just for living in) 41 shots (you can get killed just for living in) 41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)
___
With the current state of the world, it's important to raise awareness and encourage our readers to take action in support of the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement. We compiled a list or resources to help guide you in the right direction to begin helping today - check it out HERE.
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Last updated: 13 Aug 2020, 11:10 Etc/UTC