Friday, July 25, 2008

The Ghost of Tom Joad

If you know me, you know it doesn't take long in a conversation with me before the topic moves to my music hero Bruce Springsteen. In 1995 he released an acoustic album called The Ghost of Tom Joad. It has some really good music on it and its theme of social justice and making the American Dream a reality for all citizens is powerful and is particularly appropriate for our current time, especially with the economy in the tank.

To be honest with you though, I have always liked the "rocker" Springsteen's music better than the "folk singer" Springsteen. So, I bought The Ghost of Tom Joad, listened to it some, but really don't listen to it as much as some of the other albums he has released.

Well, in the midst of the Magic tour, which Springsteen is currently about to wrap up with the E-Street Band, he has released another CD called Magic Tour Highlights. It contains four songs from the tour recorded live with the accompanying video of each song as well.

Particularly moving is the band's performance of "Fourth of July Asbury Park (Sandy)" with his old friend Danny Federici on the accordion. This was Danny's last appearance with the band. He died just a few months later at the age of 58 (much too young) from Melanoma. He and Springsteen had been friends and played music together for 40 years. Here's a link to Springsteen's eulogy of his old friend at the funeral:

All of the proceeds from this CD go to the "Dan Federici Melanoma Fund" for research into this terrible type of cancer.

My favorite song on the new CD, however, is a performance in Anaheim, CA, where Springsteen brought out Tom Morello (from the group "Rage Against the Machine"). They both played a full band version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad." It is a powerful performance.

Here's the link to the Youtube version of the performance:

Here are the lyrics to the song. It is based on the character "Tom Joad" from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Men walkin' 'long the railroad tracks
Goin' someplace there's no goin' back
Highway patrol choppers comin' up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin' 'round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin' in their cars in the Southwest
No home no job no peace no rest
The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad
He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin' for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and gun in your hand
Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Bathin' in the city aqueduct
The highway is alive tonight
Where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Waitin' on the ghost of Tom Joad
Now Tom said "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin' hand
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."
Well the highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad
Give the song a listen. If you like it go to iTunes and get the CD. It is only $7.99 and it is for a good cause.

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