Bruce Springsteen “American Skin (41 Shots)” … The Shooting of Amadou Diallo (Rock) [Music/Track]

Year: 2000
Genre: Rock
From: The albums ”The Essential Bruce Springsteen” and “High Hopes

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

American Skin (41 Shots) was written by Bruce Springsteen, inspired by the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo. It premiered during the band’s 1999–2000 reunion tourin concert in Atlanta on June 4, 2000, the final concert before the tour’s final ten-show run at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, where it was featured again. The performance led to some controversy in New York City, where the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association called for a boycott of Springsteen’s shows. The song was first released as a live version on the Live in New York City album. The same version appeared a few years later on The Essential Bruce Springsteen. In April 2001, a studio version of the song was released as a very rare U.S.-only one-track radio promotional single on CD-R.  A music video featuring the performance from the New York City show was released in 2001 and directed by Jonathan Demme.

It was played at several concerts in April 2012 on the Wrecking Ball Tour in response to the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Springsteen performed the song on July 16, 2013, a few days following George Zimmerman’s controversial not guilty verdict. It was again dedicated to Martin at the Limerick, Ireland, concert with Springsteen saying before the song, “I want to send this one out as a letter back home. For justice for Trayvon Martin”.

Upon the release of the song in 2000, Bruce said in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet:
– I still thinks the song is current. when we entered a new millennium, the race issue felt like the most important in the United States and how we humans relate to each other. To some extent, the answer to that question will determine how we as a nation eventually improve or fall. I wanted to point out that people of color are seen through a filter of crime and that this means that in the end they are somehow seen as incomplete Americans. And then not only by authorities but also by ordinary people.

Springsteen has never hesitated to take a political stand. Nor does he in the interview with the Los Angeles Times:
– It goes without saying that I would rather have seen that we had not got a Republican president.

Springsteen was recognized by the NAACP with the Humanitarian Award on December 3, 2000.

Springsteen released a new studio version of the song, recorded in 2013, on his 2014 album, High Hopes.

Cover Versions

In 2016 Mary J. Blige sang a portion of the song to Hillary Clinton in an interview on Apple Music. The studio version, which features American rapper Kendrick Lamar, premiered online on October 23, 2016

Living Colour performed a cover of “American Skin (41 Shots)” at the Auditorium Stravinski in Montreaux, Switzerland on July 20, 2001. 

In 2016, Jackson Browne performed a cover of “American Skin (41 Shots)” at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

In June 2020, the American band Black Veil Brides released a cover of “American Skin (41 Shots)” in support of Black Lives Matter.

Shooting of Amadou Diallo

In the early hours of February 4, 1999, a 23-year-old Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo (born September 2, 1975) was fatally shot by four New York City Police Department plainclothes officers: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon, and Kenneth Boss. Carroll would later claim to have mistaken him for a rape suspect from one year earlier, a claim never confirmed by objective evidence. The officers fired a total of 41 shots, 19 of which struck Diallo, outside his apartment at 1157 Wheeler Avenue in the Soundview section of the Bronx.

The four officers, who were part of the now-defunct Street Crimes Unit, were charged with second-degree murder and acquitted at trial in Albany, New York. Diallo was unarmed and a firestorm of controversy erupted after the event, as the circumstances of the shooting prompted outrage both inside and outside of New York. Issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, and contagious shooting were central to the ensuing controversy.

Death

In the early morning of February 4, 1999, Diallo was standing near his building after returning from a meal. At about 12:40 a.m., police officers Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy – all in plain clothes – drove by. Carroll later claimed that Diallo matched the general description of a serial rapist reported a year earlier, or that he might have been a “lookout” for drug dealers operating in the area.

The officers later claimed:
– Diallo ran up the outside steps toward his apartment house doorway at their approach, ignoring their orders to stop and ‘show his hands’. The porch lightbulb was out and Diallo was backlit by the inside vestibule light, showing only a silhouette. Diallo then reached into his jacket and withdrew his wallet. Seeing the man holding a small square object, Carroll yelled ‘Gun!’ to alert his colleagues. The officers opened fire on Diallo, claiming that they believed he was holding a gun. During the shooting, lead officer McMellon tripped backward off the front stairs, causing the other officers to believe he had been shot.

However, a witness testified that they shot with no warning. The four officers fired 41 shots with semi-automatic pistols, striking Diallo 19 times.

The investigation found no weapons on or near Diallo; what he had pulled out of his jacket was a wallet. The internal NYPD investigation ruled that the officers had acted within policy, based on what a reasonable police officer would have done in the same circumstances. Nonetheless the Diallo shooting led to a review of police training policy and of the use of full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets.

On March 25, 1999, a Bronx grand jury indicted the four officers on charges of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment. On December 16, a court ordered a change of venue to Albany, New York because of pretrial publicity. On February 25, 2000, after two days of deliberation, a jury in Albany acquitted the officers of all charges.

In April 2000, Diallo’s mother and father filed a $61 million lawsuit against the city and the officers, charging gross negligence, wrongful death, racial profiling, and other violations of Diallo’s civil rights. In March 2004, they accepted a $3 million settlement, one of the largest in the City of New York for a single man with no dependents under New York State’s “wrongful death law”, which limits damages to pecuniary loss by the deceased person’s next of kin. Anthony H. Gair, representing the Diallo family, argued that federal common law should apply.

In April 2002, as a result of the killing of Diallo and other controversial actions, the Street Crime Unit was disbanded. In 2003, Diallo’s mother published a memoir, My Heart Will Cross This Ocean: My Story, My Son, Amadou, with the help of author Craig Wolff.

Diallo’s death became an issue in the 2005 New York City mayoral election. Bronx borough president and mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer, who had protested the circumstances of the killing at the time, was criticized by the Diallo family and many other for telling a meeting of police sergeants that although the shooting had been a tragedy, the officers had been “over-indicted”

Boss had shot another unarmed black man dead in 1997. After the trial Boss was reassigned to desk duty, but in October 2012, Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly restored Boss’ ability to carry a firearm. As of 2012 he was the only one of the four officers still working for the NYPD. In 2015 he was promoted to sergeant in accordance to police policy, which is not subject to review by top department officials.

American Skin (41 Shots)

(41 shots)
(41 shots)
(41 shots)
(41 shots)

41 shots, and we’ll take that ride
‘Cross the bloody river to the other side
41 shots, cut through the night
You’re kneeling over his body in the vestibule
Praying for his life

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

(41 shots)
(41 shots)
(41 shots)
(41 shots)

41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school
She says, “On these streets, Charles
You’ve got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you, promise me you’ll always be polite
And that you’ll never ever run away
Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”

Is it a gun (is it a gun), is it a knife (is it a knife)
Is it a wallet (is it a wallet), this is your life (this is your life)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

(41 shots)
(41 shots)
(41 shots)
(41 shots)

Is it a gun (is it a gun), is it a knife (is it a knife)
Is it in your heart (is it in your heart), is it in your eyes (is it in your eyes)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)

41 shots, and we’ll take that ride
‘Cross this bloody river to the other side
41 shots, I got my boots caked with this mud
We’re baptized in these waters (baptized in these waters)
And in each other’s blood (and in each other’s blood)

Is it a gun (is it a gun), is it a knife (is it a knife)
Is it a wallet (is it a wallet), this is your life (this is your life)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
It ain’t no secret (it ain’t no secret)
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in
You can get killed just for living in
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots

41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots

41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)
41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)
41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)
41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)

41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)
41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)
41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)
41 shots (you can get killed just for living in)

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