From Amadou Diallo to Trayvon Martin, Bruce Springsteen Revives “American Skin (41 Shots)”

 New Yorker editor David Remnick, who caught Bruce Springsteen on his most recent tour, notes that the Boss has been playing “American Skin (41 Shots),” the song he premiered in 2000 in response to the killing of Amadou Diallo by the New York City police, in memory of Trayvon Martin. The rendition of the song from the Tampa stop is gorgeous, and tragic—and I think really enhanced beautifully by his backing singers here:

That refrain, “Is it a gun? / Is it a knife? / Is it a wallet? / This is your life” is so particularly chilling given the details of Martin’s death, the mundanity of that ice tea and the candy. And the caution the mother gives her son in the song, her injunction that “You got to understand the rules / Promise me if an officer stops you’ll always be polite / Never ever run away and promise mama you’ll keep your hands in sight” is a particularly sick reminder of how futile that promise is when you’re faced with someone determined to read you as a criminal, to do you harm, to execute their own twisted version of justice.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.