"I’ve got my finger on the trigger, but I don’t know who to trust"

Now that’s how to write a song.

Springsteen isn’t trying to impress you with his writing. Rather he’s attempting to draw you into a conversation. That’s why I think the song “Devils and Dust” is one of the greatest anti-war songs ever written. It’s so good, you may not even realize it’s an anti-war song, and that is exactly what makes it so effective.

By assuming the point of view of a soldier, Bruce creates a statement without marginalizing anyone in the process. Instead of nailing people in the face with an opinion, he paints pictures that require the listener to ask questions. I’m sure Bruce hopes these questions will lead you to his same conclusions, but he leaves it up to you.

Springsteen certainly isn’t the originator of this approach. Neither is Dylan or even Shakespeare. King David uses it in his most famous Psalm “23”, where he assumes the role of a sheep. And as a communicator, Jesus applied it almost exclusively (Mathew 13:34).

So take a tip from Jesus, and Springsteen: Tell a story. If people are smart, they’ll get it, and I think people are smarter than we give them credit for. Don’t you?

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10 comments
  1. I like the "I think people are smarter than we give them credit" part. So often people underestimate their audience and it just causes them to dumb down their own music.

  2. right on! and if people aren't smarter than what you give them credit for, challenging them to think while listening to your music(or whatever the craft) causes them to grow & stretch. Always a good thing.

  3. "I think people are smarter than we give them credit for"I have believed that my whole life. Especially regarding songs. It is almost my goal to make people think a little about what is being sung/said rather than just repeat an opinion over and over, which is just what you said. It is an important portion of songwriting that I feel is missing in the church but seems to be more prevelant outside which STINKS!! GOD is MORE creative than what we currently have in the Church. But I am optimistic…Good note Mark!!

  4. hollyet said:

    what a great line:"takes a god fearing soul, fills it with devils and dust" a poetic way to describe the ravages of war. all the greats have hearkened to scripture as a blueprint i think, the ancient the archetypes. good point. what you wrote about storytelling and drawing people in made me think of "all along the watchtower" ..that song is so compelling as it seems to start mid-action with a sense of urgency. it is going to grab you right away and you may not be entirely sure where you are going, but you're pretty sure you want to go.songs like these are so important.

  5. @ Stretch Papa: amen and amen.Oh, how I've missed creativity in the Church…it's finally starting to be integrated again it seems. If we all just reached down deep and found out that we really can think in a creative way without be a heathen, the world would want to know this crazy guy we know and love named Jesus.

  6. great song.what do you think about "Masters of War" by Dylan? Its a song that seems opposite of this. It completely marginalizes and gives no mercy. I loved this video by the way, the vocals sounded like they were recorded live. great stuff.

  7. hollyet said:

    hey alexander, just piping up here cuz i had thought of "masters of war" too,interesting bc dylan uses the line 'you fashion the triggers for others to fire'..here's a commentary he made (i read on wikipedia): Dylan spoke to USA Today's Edna Gundersen about the song the day before the September 11th attacks. In the article, Dylan is quoted as saying that the song "is supposed to be a pacifistic song against war. It's not an anti-war song. It's speaking against what Eisenhower was calling a military-industrial complex as he was making his exit from the presidency. That spirit was in the air, and I picked it up."[3it seems his song is written from a young, impassioned perspective and he's using some biblical references but maybe a bit out of context–judas/the gov't as the betrayer, deceiver and jesus not being able to forgive–that is a bit extreme and used to show his fervent feelings about what is going on i guess, stating the crime is so large that even jesus couldn't forgive. and you're right the end shows no mercy. reflects his own feelings of anger and seems to defeat the concept–i hope you that are the merchants of death die (the same idea perpetuated by war in general).. like he said, he surely did pick up on a spirit that was in the air when so many were opposing what was going on in the world with vietnam,etc. but it kind of reduces things to a sort of immature 'us against them' mentality. seems like this attitude sometimes arises when people make political platforms of whatever persuasion their form of faith for the world..just my own musings– thanks for mentioning it!

  8. Rafael said:

    Oh that was really cool. Haven't heard some Springstean in a long time… You know what you were saying about telling a story is so true. Someone once pointed out to me that Jesus basically told stories to the people. I heard once that facts go straight to the head, but stories go to the heart.

  9. J.M. said:

    Since I am a writer, and life-long lover of story telling, there is nothing better than a good narrative. This approach is a good way to get people thinking. Thinking is one of my favorite pass times.

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