September 11th, 2001 was a pretty low point in our nation’s history. It took us a long time to come back from over 3000 dead in a single day, but believe it or not some good came out of the catastrophe in the coming weeks. Americans found themselves more united than they had been in previous years, and that perseverance provided inspiration for some stirring post-tragedy music. (Though if you count “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” by Alan Jackson among them, you’re a disappointment to your species.)
The Rising was among the music released, and it served as a new turning point in Bruce Springsteen’s career. The man was deeply affected by the tragedy of 9/11, and recorded this 2002 album with the intent of capturing the emotions that he and others like him had felt after the grisly event. The album goes through numerous emotions, from fury (The quiet, but intense “Nothing Man”) to hope for the future, (The uplifting “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day”) to an overwhelming sense of loss. (The somber “Into The Fire”, which has gone on to be one of the most enduring songs of the aftermath.)
What set The Rising apart from many other albums influenced by the events of 9/11, is despite the tone, it remains unconfrontational. Springsteen thinks nothing of revenge, (I’m looking at you, Toby Keith.) instead encouraging to rise above the animosity felt after the events, and come together. No song best encapsulates this message better than 7th track, “Worlds Apart”, which features Islamic Qawwali music as backing. A symbolic gesture, backed up by Springsteen’s powerful rock sound.
More than being a powerful post-9/11 album, is marked several milestones in Springsteen’s career. Before releasing The Rising, he hadn’t released an album of new material since 1995s The Ghost of Tom Joad, and it had been even longer since his last collaboration with his famous backing group, the E Street Band. (The last album of original material they’d made together was 1992s Human Touch.) The Rising not only brought Springsteen and the E Street Band back together writing material, but it became a widespread success for them, becoming their bestselling album since 1987s Tunnel of Love.
It revitalized Springsteen’s career, and to this day the tracks of The Rising stand as some of Springsteen’s most powerful, and most poignant of all his works.
The opening track “Lonesome Day”, which serves as a powerful, hard-rocking, yet elegant introduction of things to come. Guitars, violins, and saxophones blare in unison as the Boss declares: “It’ll be okay…if I can just get through this Lonesome Day.”
The album’s mighty closer “My City Of Ruins”, a song originally written about Asbury Park, but now resonates more deeply with New York, largely because of Springsteen’s powerful performance of it which opened the America: A Tribute To Heroes telethon. An extremely sad song, made glorious by Springsteen’s call to rise from the ashes like a phoenix.