By John Law, Niagara Falls Review
Joe Grushecky. left, heads to Yanks Bar & Grill in Niagara Falls Friday to kick off the Light of Day summer concert series. Grushecky recently recorded the scathing anti-Trump song That's What Makes Us Great with longtime pal Bruce Springsteen, right. PHOTO: Jeff Ross / Special to Niagara Falls Review
It’s late January and Pittsburgh singer/songwriter Joe Grushecky is seething. Like many others in the U.S.
A few days after Donald Trump is inaugurated as president, he pours his anger into a fiery new song called That’s What Makes Us Great, in which he pleads “let’s turn this thing around, before it gets too late.”
Grushecky says he despised Trump long before politics entered the picture, but it was the sight of him mocking a disabled reporter which tipped the scales. In addition to his music career, Grushecky is a teacher who works with mentally challenged teens.
“I was never a fan of (Trump), but I just can’t believe people fell for his bulls—t,” says Grushecky, who returns to Yanks Bar & Grill in Niagara Falls Friday night to launch the Light of Day Canada summer concert series. “As soon as he made fun of the guy with the disability, that should have disqualified him right there. That should have ended it.
“I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. I think he’s an embarrassment.”
The thumping rocker was fine as it was, but Grushecky thought it needed a little Boss. As in, close friend Bruce Springsteen. Collaborating completely online, Springsteen sent Grushecky his vocal parts via e-mail from New Jersey, belting out some of the song’s angriest lyrics (“Don’t you brag to me that you never read a book / I never put my faith in a con man and his crooks”).
As Grushecky says, he gave it the “Bruce treatment.”
The song was released in April and drew a predictably mixed response. Among the choice feedback: Springsteen is unpatriotic, and Grushecky is a “Hollywood elite.”
“Meanwhile, I’m out the door at 6:15 every morning working at one of the worst high-crime districts in Pittsburgh, teaching special ed,” he says. “So that’s my Hollywood eliteness.”
But he knew the waters he was wading into. Since January, the division in his country has been “terrible.”
“Here in the States, there’s friendships that have been shattered. There’s families that have been shattered over this.”
While Grushecky has always laced his albums with social commentary, That’s What Makes Us Great may be his most direct protest tune. He was inspired by the urgent political songs of the ‘60s - most notably Neil Young’s Ohio - though he realizes their impact is diluted in today’s music landscape.
“It’s a whole different generation now. The music stuff is not quite as communal as it used to be, when you’d get a record and everybody would get together to listen to it. Now, everybody’s in their own little world.
“It’s a whole different experience now. A whole different delivery system.”
- WHO: Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers
- WHERE: Yanks Niagara; 5008 Centre Street; Niagara Falls
- WHEN: June 16, 9 p.m.
- ADMISSION: $5 donation to Light of Day Canada encouraged.