Between an unlikely duo of born outsiders, discussions of racism across the nation and the familiar sounds of classic American popular music comprised the first few episodes of Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s new Spotify-exclusive podcast, “Renegades: Born in the USA.”
First introduced on Feb. 22, the podcast has released a total of four episodes out of an eight-part series, set to publish weekly on Mondays.
“Renegades” provides a creative outlet for both icons to discuss their “lives, music and enduring love of America” in the midst of an ever-changing society. The two men spent a significant amount of time recording the podcast at Springsteen’s estate last year, unbeknownst to the circumstances the upcoming year would bring.
Listeners are drawn in to their reminiscent conversations, politics aside, as their personal experiences reflect shared values among similar time periods.
Though coming from two completely separate professional worlds, the duo began to connect throughout Obama’s presidential terms. After their first encounter during his 2008 campaign, a close friendship emerged through commonalities: “the same issues… the same joys and doubts” as noted in episode one.
Both appear conversational in nature, sharing laughter and childhood memories while taking in the surroundings of Springsteen’s instrumental setup. It’s surreal to witness a genuine camaraderie between two American icons. Both make exceptional efforts to fully understand the background of the other, despite differences in location, age and race.
In light of a massive surge in the Black Lives Matter movement, their discussion of uncomfortable conversations in race provide an additional insight into the struggles of Black individuals. Springsteen addresses his first impression of Obama, “a broad sense of American hopefulness,” to which he remains true.
Obama notes the subtly existing legacy of race across a variety of communities, and the discomfort a kind of conversation can entail when it is projected. Likewise, he encourages the determination from young activists to speak volumes and change the course of our history — a promising statement in regards to recent protests.
“…As long as protests and activism doesn’t veer into violence, my general attitude is — I want and expect young people to push those boundaries and to test and try the patience of their parents and their grandparents,” he said.
In more lighthearted conversation, both men can be heard singing along to the tunes of Eric Clapton and Marvin Gaye, sharing their personal musical journeys through the growth and development of popular music. Throughout episode three, the two explore the power of music, and the ways a simple melody or lyric can speak volumes in a way regular words cannot. Additionally, we hear a variety of archival footage from Springsteen’s concerts and White House performances to set the tone for the session.
From the perspective of Springsteen’s journey to the stage, and Obama’s reminiscent days of strumming air guitar on Air Force One, both exhibit a significant mutual passion for the music which shapes our nation. This is another strong commonality between the two — a moment of unity for listeners to connect with.
In the most recent episode published March 8, Springsteen and Obama take a joyride in Springsteen’s vintage corvette, romanticizing the open road and freedom that travel can bring. Obama notes the necessity of exploration as an American, describing his first family Western road trip and marveling at the opportunities it provided.
“Man, imagine where you can go. You can go anywhere, and by implication, you can do anything and be anybody,” Obama said.
Additionally, the two reminisce about century-shattering events such as the Vietnam War, Cuban Missile Crisis and the Civil Rights Movement, and how they played a major role in the transformation of America’s “innocent” image. Their conversations continue to tie back into previous episodes, allowing the series to come full circle.
Overall, both Obama and Springsteen portray a charismatic, brother-like bond as they allow their full selves to emerge. “Renegades” delivers a unique creation in which an audience is brought to the other side of their lives, engaging in thought from conversations across a variety of topics. This podcast is a must-listen for individuals curious about music history, social justice and everything in between. The next episode of “Renegades” will be available on Spotify on March 15.
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