Bruce Springsteen, whom Rolling Stone describes as "a rock-star working-class hero," has endorsed Barack Obama for President just as he is being attacked for being "elitist" and out of touch with ordinary Americans.
Known to his fans as The Boss, Springsteen's songs about the travails of working-class Americans and the unjust wars they are sent off to fight, strike a deep chord with his audiences, young and old. His declaration of support for Mr Obama, in the form of a letter to his fans posted on his website, could not have been more timely.
A week from now, working-class Pennsylvanians, many from towns that have been devastated by the process of globalisation, will have a strong voice in the state's primary competition to nominate the democratic candidate for the presidency. Springsteen, 58, from New Jersey, writes that after the damage done over the past eight years, "a great American reclamation project needs to be undertaken. I believe that Senator Obama is the best candidate to lead that project and to lead us into the 21st century with a renewed sense of moral purpose and of ourselves as Americans."
Springsteen, whose songs include "Factory" and "Born In The USA", said Mr Obama's opponents had taken some of his recent remarks about people in small-town America being "bitter" out of context. Hillary Clinton said this week that her opponent's remarks revealed him to be "elitist, out of touch and frankly patronising" towards those Americans who cling to guns and religion in hard economic times.
Implicitly attacking Mrs Clinton, Springsteen writes that "at the moment, critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships ... While these matters are worthy of some discussion," he says, "they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision ... often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues: war and peace; the fight for economic and racial justice; reaffirming our Constitution; and the protection and enhancement of our environment."
The singer-songwriter went on to deliver a glowing appreciation of Mr Obama which was being urgently circulated by the campaign following one of its worst periods of the presidential campaign. "I have now seen and heard enough to know where I stand. Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest," he writes. "He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle complex problems."
Springsteen backed John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election - and in a New York Times comment piece entitled "chords for change" he denounced George Bush's tax cuts for the richest 1 per cent, including "corporate bigwigs, well-to-do guitar players" - but this time he is backing a candidate in a primary race, and at a key moment.
Mrs Clinton has said Mr Obama's recent remarks were patronising and has broadcast a TV ad featuring offended voters. A furious Mr Obama has said he has been making the same point for years, but that on this occasion his choice of words was regrettable. Moving on from his "bitter" faux pas, Mr Obama issued a statement saying: "The America that Bruce Springsteen has spoken about through song is one of big dreams, unyielding hope, and a resilient, hardworking people who struggle and sacrifice for a country as good as its promise. It's a story I know and a vision I share for our future."
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