Bruce Springsteen, who is joining other musicians in a series of concerts aimed at raising money to defeat President Bush in the November election, spoke to Nightline's Ted Koppel about politics, music, and when the two intersect. Following are excerpts from the interview, conducted at the singer's home in New Jersey.
For the full interview, watch Nightline tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET.
TED KOPPEL: Bruce, let me put it very bluntly ... Who the hell is Bruce Springsteen to tell anybody how to vote?
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: This is my favorite question.
KOPPEL: I thought it would be.
SPRINGSTEEN: First of all, I don't even tell anybody anything. You know, you ask people to think about things together, you know.
Second of all, it's an interesting question that seems to only be asked of musicians and artists, for some reason, you know. If you're a lobbyist in Washington, you're a business guy. Well, shut up and do business. Stay out of public policy, you know. Nobody complains about that. These big corporations, right, you influence the government your way, right? Labor unions influence the government their way. Farmers influence the government their way, right?
Artists write, and sing, and think, and this is how we get to put our two cents in, and we do it right in front of people, not in secret meetings behind closed doors. We let people know what we think….
I don't know if people go to musicians for their politics. I doubt that they do, you know, but you can rally people to think on serious issues together, and that's what we're trying to do.
KOPPEL: This is clearly not the way you felt most of your professional life. Most of your professional life you have very carefully — you've spoken out about a lot of issues …. But you've never gone partisan on us, at least not that, not that I was aware of.
SPRINGSTEEN: Well, I've always felt I was partisan to a set of ideals, and that was my job, you know, whether it was economic justice, transparent government, how do we treat our weakest citizens, say, in foreign policy, when did we decide that it's all right to risk the lives of our very bravest young men and women? You know, I've written about these things for 25 years.
I stayed a step away from partisan politics because I felt it was always important to have an independent voice. I wanted my fans to feel like they could trust that ….
You build up credibility, and you build it up for a reason, you know, over a long period of time, and hopefully we've built up that credibility with our audience. And I have an audience that's Democrats, Republicans and everything else, you know. And I think there comes a time when you feel, all right, I've built this up, and it's time to spend some of this.
And I think it's one of the most critical elections of my adult life, certainly. Very basic questions of American identity are at issue: who we are, what do we stand for, when do we fight ....