Bruce Springsteen played an epic concert behind the Iron Curtain, in East Berlin, in 1988. A short 16-months later the wall came crumbling down. Did Springsteen’s concert contribute to the fall of East Berlin? That is the question Kirschbaum investigates in his new novel, “Rocking the Wall.” Whether Springsteen’s concert, and powerful mid-concert speech, did empower the German people to fight back and regain their freedom, or not, is debatable but the facts provided in Kirschbaum’s book are interesting to consider.
During a cab ride in Germany after a 2002 concert Kirschbaum engages the cab driver in a conversation which quickly turns into a trip down memory lane as the driver reminisces about a day, in November of 1988, when Bruce Springsteen inspired the people of East Berlin to protest communism and reunite Germany. His description of the electric concert inspired Kirschbaum to begin the research which ultimately leads to this novel, Rocking the Wall. It is fascinating insight into one of the most politically charged events in recent history – the division of Germany and the Berlin Wall. While Kirschbaum was not able to interview Springsteen or any member of the E Street Band for the novel but with over 300,000 people in attendance that day he was able to speak with others who either worked, or attended, this epic event. The memories are all the same – Springsteen’s music, lyrics, energy and pro-freedom speech fueled the fire of freedom that was burning in the belly of East Berlin residents. This is not to say that Springsteen’s concert caused the fall of the Berlin Wall but merely that his concert and message contributed to the changing culture of the people living behind the wall.
Rocking the Wall isn’t so much a book determined to credit Springsteen for reuniting Germany as much as it is insight into the power of music to influence people. Springsteen’s music has always been known for being gritty and for telling the story of hard work, determination and overcoming obstacles. His message was always about not letting others hold you down or hold you back. His music spoke to the dying passion of the East Berlin people and reminded them that they had to fight for their freedom, fight against communism and fight to reunite Germany. Would the Berlin Wall have fallen without Springsteen’s concert? Probably. Would it have happened as quickly as it did or would the people have been as inspired? Maybe. Should Springsteen’s concert be included as one of the many events that contributed to this event in Germany’s history? Yes and Kirschbaum’s novel presents a rather compelling case for it.
Review by Ashley LaMarClosed the Cover