Book Review: Rocking the Wall: Bruce Springsteen: The Berlin Concert that Changed the World

Rocking the Wall: Bruce Springsteen: The Berlin Concert that Changed the World by Eric Kirschbaum is a look back a at 1988 and the improbable concert that took place in East Germany. For those of us who are old enugh to remember a place called East Germany, it will take you back. Kirschbaum got the idea for the book in a taxi cab coming back from the 2002 Springsteen concert in Berlin. The cabby told him about the most incredible concert in Berlin that shook up the entire country.

Growing up in Cleveland, Bruce Springsteen was the patron saint of the city, so said WMMS. Every Friday at 5:00pm Born to Run would play as part of the weekend kick off. Long before Born in the USA, Springsteen sang of the blue collar life and trying to get ahead that really struck home. Well into adulthood and back at a blue collar job, Springsteen never left my music library. I remember him ranting against Reagan who wanted to use Born in the USA as a campaign song because it sounded patriotic, rather than a story of a veteran abandoned by his country.

In 1987, West German concerts at the Reichstag caused concern in East Germany as the building stood near the wall. Crowds of East Germans gathered at the wall to listen to the concerts which lead to confrontations with the East German Police. After attempts to negotiate with West Berlin to prevent the overflow of concert music from the isolated city of West Berlin failed, East Germany decided to hold their own concerts to appease the young and prevent violence.

The Free German Youth came up with a plan to get Springsteen to play East Berlin. Springsteen, not a Reagan supporter, seemed like a good choice. A liberal singer who wrote about the failure of the American dream would be the perfect person to appease the youth without harming the government’s authority. It was said that he also donated a printing press to Nicaragua. That printing press was used to sell the concert to the East German hierarchy and the Nicaragua connection almost ruined the concert the day before it started.

American music had a political voice and in my generation it was Bruce Springsteen and to some extent Patti Smith. takes you behind the scenes to the largest concert ever in East Germany. It is intriguing look back into the final days of the Cold War and the down fall of an entire political system. The system was cracking by the late 1980s, Glasnost, perestroika, and the general feeling of discontent by the youth of Eastern Europe became an unstoppable wave. Many people claim the have a role in bring down The Wall from Al Gore to David Hasselhoff, but only one was in East Germany in front of 300,000 people with a message of Rock and Roll and a message to take down the barriers separating people. A worthwhile read and look at a time that seems so far away.

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