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Bruce Springsteen Dedicates 'American Skin (41 Shots)' to Trayvon Martin

Rocker wrote the song in response to another shooting in 1999

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band perform in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Image Gate/Getty Images
July 17, 2013 8:00 AM ET

Bruce Springsteen yesterday dedicated a performance of "American Skin (41 Shots)" to Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen slain by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012. Zimmerman was acquitted last weekend of murder and manslaughter charges in the case.

The rocker played the song during a show in Limerick, Ireland, after he saw an audience member holding up a placard with the title written on it, according to The Star Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. "He said, 'Where is that sign?' and grabbed it," a concert-goer said. "He then said, 'I want to send this one out as a letter back home. For justice for Trayvon Martin.'"

New Yorkers March for Trayvon Martin

Springsteen wrote the song in response to the 1999 shooting death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man who was killed by four New York City police officers who said they thought Diallo had pulled a gun on them. The 23-year-old immigrant had actually taken his wallet out of his pocket. 

Zimmerman's acquittal in the Martin case has sparked protests around the U.S., with some musicians going online to express their thoughts on the verdict. The not-guilty finding prompted Stevie Wonder to announce a boycott of Florida and anyplace else with a "Stand Your Ground" law, which permits the use of force in self-defense without an obligation to retreat first. 

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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