Springsteen to play ‘Harley’ bash
MILWAUKEE – Bruce Springsteen has long written lyrics about the struggles of working-class Americans. Harley-Davidson motorcycles have traditionally attracted blue-collar riders.
Springsteen seems like a good fit for a headlining act at the Milwaukee-based company’s 105th anniversary celebration, right? It might depend on what the liberal leaning Springsteen says to the crowd.
Springsteen, who often makes political statements during performances, endorsed Barack Obama for president this month. But he will be performing to a crowd like the one that gave Republican presidential candidate John McCain a warm welcome Aug. 4 at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Many roared their motorcycles during his speech.
Martin Jack Rosenblum, author of 1989’s “The Holy Ranger: Harley-Davidson Poems” and a featured poet in the new “Rubber Side Down: The Biker Poet Anthology,” said he expected Springsteen’s music to get a warm welcome, since he has successfully represented blue-collar workers over the years.
But when asked how the crowd might react to Springsteen’s political statements, he said, “I have the same question, I don’t know.”
“You cannot find them easily on any kind of political spectrum,” he said.
Springsteen’s spokeswoman Marilyn Laverty said the longtime rocker from New Jersey wasn’t giving interviews.
The Boss and the E Street Band were part of the Vote for Change tour, a coalition of musicians opposed to the re-election of President Bush in 2004. He wrote the anti-war ballad “Devils and Dust” about Iraq.
Bob Klein, Harley’s director of corporate communications, said the anniversary is a nonpolitical event and the company does not endorse any candidate or party.
“The choice of entertainers, made many months ago, was based purely on entertainment value and on what would appeal to our customers,” he said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “We’re confident that our thousands of friends and family from Milwaukee and around the world will have a great time at our event.”
But the company’s political action committee has given 57 per cent to Republicans and 43 per cent to Democrats in the 2008 election cycle, according to www.opensecrets.org. So far, the PAC has given a total of $14,550 to federal candidates, according to the site.
Springsteen’s Saturday performance will be his last stop on the “Magic” tour, which started in October. Klein wouldn’t say how many tickets have been sold, but said he expects the audience to be at or near the 125,000 person capacity.
The Harley crowd gathered near the new Harley-Davidson Museum earlier in this week had mixed reactions to Springsteen.
Jim Jacobs, a conservative from Clearwater, Fla., said he was a Springsteen fan until about five or 10 years ago, when Springsteen started becoming more vocal about his political views. The 63-year-old retired businessman said he won’t go to the show because he doesn’t want to hear about politics when he’s listening to music.
“If he wasn’t so adamant, you could overlook it,” he said.
Jacobs said he thought most Harley riders leaned to the right.
But the more liberal Ray and Toni Kneen, from Denver, said they though the crowd was split down the middle. They plan to attend the concert.
“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion,” said Ray Kneen, 55, a retired welder.
“I think they like his music, and that’s why they are going to see him,” said Toni Kneen, 52, who is retired from owning her own housekeeping business.
After McCain’s stop at Sturgis this month, Obama invoked Harleys – the market-leading American motorcycle company – in a Wisconsin radio ad. It blasted the Arizona senator for his long opposition to provisions that require government agencies to buy goods made in the U.S.
Harley-Davidson expects more than 100,000 people from around the nation and world to participate in the four-day celebration that officially started Thursday in Milwaukee and its suburbs. It includes a parade through the city, a party along the lake, activities at the new Harley-Davidson Museum, a special exhibit at Discovery World and other big-name bands.
Springsteen to play ‘Harley’ bash