Watch Bruce Springsteen Perform “American Skin” for Trayvon Martin

Slate's Culture Blog
March 29 2012 2:28 PM

Springsteen Revives “American Skin (41 Shots)” for Trayvon Martin

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Bruce Springsteen, left, in Austin, Texas, earlier this year

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW

Bruce Springsteen’s newest album, Wrecking Ball, has been called his most politically direct album yet. But to comment on last month’s fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., Springsteen, currently touring in support of Wrecking Ball, reached further back into his catalog, playing his 2000 song “American Skin (41 Shots),” originally written in response to the Amadou Diallo shooting.

David Haglund David Haglund

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

While there are obviously many differences between the Diallo and Martin shootings, the chorus of “American Skin” resonates with both incidents:

It ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
in your American skin
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Pointedly, Springsteen gave the song its Wrecking Ball tour debut in Tampa, Fla., just a couple hours drive from Sanford, where Martin was killed. (In 2000, Springsteen debuted the song right before 10 shows at Madison Square Garden; he played the song there, too, prompting criticism from then Police Commissioner Howard Safir.) In Tampa, Springsteen let the audience grasp the connection themselves (which they seem to do—listen to the swell of cheers when the chorus comes around); last night in Philadelphia, according to David Remnick, Springsteen introduced the song with the words, “This is for Trayvon.”