(CBS/AP) Rock star Bruce Springsteen endorsed Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for president Wednesday, saying "he speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years."
In a letter addressed to friends and fans posted on his Web site, Springsteen said he believes Obama is the best candidate to undo "the terrible damage done over the past eight years."
"He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next president," the letter said. "He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where '...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.'"
The bard of New Jersey is known for his lyrics about the struggles of working-class Americans, particularly in the economically ravaged factory towns of the Northeast.
Springsteen and his E Street band were part of the Vote for Change tour, a coalition of musicians opposed to the re-election of President Bush in 2004. He wrote the anti-war ballad "Devils and Dust" about Iraq.
President Reagan used Springsteen's then-popular song "Born in the USA" at campaign rallies in 1984 until he was asked by Springsteen, who supported Democrat Walter Mondale, to stop. The song about a Vietnam veteran's hard times was often misinterpreted as a patriotic call to arms.
For Springsteen, speaking out about political issues is an important part of a musician's role in society.
"There's a part of the singer going way back in American history that is of course the canary in the coalmine," he told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley in an interview last year. "When it gets dark, you're supposed to be singing. It's dark right now. And so I went back to Woody Guthrie and Dylan and the people who said, say take Pete Seeger, who wants to know, doesn't want to know how this song sounds, he wants to know what's it for."
Springsteen did not directly mention Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama's rival for the Democratic nomination, in his letter, but appeared to take issue with her recent criticisms of comments made by Obama about working-class voters in small towns in Pennsylvania and controversial statements by his pastor.
"Critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships," Springsteen wrote. "While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision ... often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues: war and peace, the fight for economic and racial justice, reaffirming our Constitution, and the protection and enhancement of our environment."