Springsteen fans won't have any trouble picking out "Trapped" on the radio. The raspy-voiced singer has been doing the old Jimmy Cliff song periodically in concert since his "River" tour in 1981.
But Prince fans--and foes--may be caught off guard by "Tears," the first straight-ahead gospel/spiritual from a performer whose musical themes have often revolved around a confusing mixture of sex and salvation.
Or doesn't a man wearing only a crucifix and bikini briefs on stage suggest an identity crisis to you?
First, let's look at "Trapped."
The song was one of three guest compositions that Springsteen included in his 1981 Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena benefit concert for the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. The song--along with John Fogerty's "Who'll Stop the Rain" and Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land"--signaled an increasing social consciousness in Springsteen's music.
In his early albums, he wrote chiefly about his own experiences, evolving from tales of youthful aspirations to more complex commentaries on people whose aspirations had been snatched from them.
By the time of "The River," he started to see a certain universality in the sometimes desperate, disenfranchised people he was writing about. That led him to think about the social and cultural conditions that were contributing to that situation.
In his subsequent "Nebraska" and "Born in the U.S.A.," Springsteen wrote about those social conditions himself, but songs such as "Trapped" served as a transition in the live show. The urgent album version was recorded last August at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
The lyrics, in part:
It seems like I'm caught up in your trap again,
And it seems like I'll be wearing the same old chain.
But good will conquer evil and the truth will set me free,
And I know someday I will find the key.
And I know someday I will find the key ...
But now I'm TRAPPED.
Now on to Prince.
If you saw the lyric sheet of "4 the Tears in Your Eyes," you'd expect the song to be on a gospel album by the Rev. Al Green or Shirley Caesar.
The opening lines:
Long ago there was a man
Who changed all the bread
With the touch of His hand.
He made all the blind see and the dumb understand,
And He died for the tears in your eyes.
The song, which Prince included in his closing Long Beach Arena concert earlier this month, is one of the most engaging numbers he has written, and its place on the album should do much to combat the "bad boy" reputation created by his failure to participate in the "We Are the World" recording session Jan. 28 in Hollywood. (Profits from the original single and the upcoming album will be used chiefly to aid famine victims in Africa.)
"Tears"--which echoes some of the melodic grace of "When Doves Cry"--is also such a compassionate statement that it may soften some of the controversy surrounding Prince's upcoming concert Easter Sunday in Miami's Orange Bowl. Numerous Miami religious leaders, concerned about the sexually provocative stance of many of his songs, have criticized the timing of the concert, suggesting that it's "a slap in the face." The concert, the final date on Prince's "Purple Rain" tour, is expected to draw 70,000 people.
Besides an extended version of the "We Are the World" single and Northern Lights' "Tears Are Not Enough," the benefit album includes previously unreleased tracks by six other artists: Chicago, Huey Lewis and the News, the Pointer Sisters, Steve Perry, Kenny Rogers and Tina Turner.
Ken Kragen, executive director of the United Support of Artists for Africa Foundation, said Friday the organization has raised $8.7 million through the sale of more than 3 million copies of the "We Are the World" single, cable-TV rights for a documentary and sweat shirts. The album will list for $9.98.
LIVE ACTION: Tickets go on sale Sunday for four Universal Amphitheatre shows: Jose Luis Rodriguez (May 10-11), Fabian's oldies package that includes the Shirelles and Lesley Gore (May 17), Joan Armatrading (May 22) and Toto (May 24). . . . Tickets will be available Monday for Chicago's April 27 date at Irvine Meadows. . . The O'Jays and Angela Bofill will play the Beverly on April 25. . . . Coming to the Palace: the Nails (April 24) and Nik Kershaw (April 25).