Caught in another political storm over his lyrics, The Boss responded by letting his music do the talking.
Bruce Springsteen opened his 10-concert show at Madison Square Garden Monday by performing his new song about the New York City police killing of Amadou Diallo, despite angry police union leaders urging their members to boycott his concert.
With Diallo's relatives in the audience, the New Jersey rocker made no introduction and offered no explanation of his thoughts on the song, American Skin (41 Shots). Springsteen first sang the song last week during a concert in Atlanta.
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The Boss tells the NYPD what it doesn't want to hear.
E Street Band members began the song by approaching microphones one by one and repeating the words "41 shots," referring to the number of times four white officers shot at Diallo, a black West African immigrant.
The crowd began cheering in recognition of the song and interrupted Springsteen's singing with cheers several times. It was difficult to distinguish any boos from the traditional "Bruce!" chant at his shows.
"Is this your wallet? Is this your life?" the unrecorded and unreleased song goes, referring to Diallo's wallet, which police mistook for a gun. "You can get killed just for living in your American skin."
One heckler was escorted from Madison Square Garden after he approached the stage and flashed obscene hand gestures at Springsteen during the song.
Diallo, 22, was mortally wounded as he stood in the vestibule of his Bronx home on Feb. 4, 1999. The four officers involved in the shooting were acquitted of murder earlier this year.
Kadiatou Diallo, the slain man's mother, has said she interprets the song as a sign that people cared about what happened to her son.
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents 27,000 city police officers, has urged its embers not to attend or work overtime security detail at Springsteen's 10-concert stand in protest.
Police Lt. Eric Adams, of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, said his group supports Springsteen and is upset that few black artists have used their talents to support the Diallo family.
"We commend Bruce Springsteen, and we believe that he is courageous in the position that he is taking," Adams said in a news conference before the concert.
Sixteen years ago, Springsteen was upset when his song Born in the USA was used in President Reagan's political campaign and was misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem.
In response , he said only, "The president was mentioning my name the other day, and I kind of got to wondering what his favorite album must've been. I don't think it was the Nebraska album."
Then he launched in to a performance of Johnny 99, one of the songs from that album, about an out-of-work auto worker.
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