Johnny 99

Album: Nebraska (1982)
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Songfacts®:

  • This is about a man who loses his job at an auto plant, gets drunk, kills a store clerk, and is sentenced to 99 years in jail, earning him the nickname "Johnny 99."
  • At a New Jersey campaign stop in 1984, Ronald Reagan mentioned Springsteen's music as a symbol of American pride. Springsteen responded that Reagan was not actually listening to songs like this one about a laid-off worker who turns to murder.
  • Springsteen recorded this as a 4-track demo in his home. He put his vocals and guitar on the first two tracks, and used the remaining two for overdubs.
  • Like "Dancing In The Dark," contains stark lyrics which are masked by a happy beat.
  • The judge who sentences Johnny 99 is named "John Brown," which is also the name of the sheriff in Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff." Bob Dylan also has a song called "John Brown," about a man who goes to war and comes back wounded.
  • Since Springsteen did not tour to support the album Nebraska. The first time he played this in concert was on the Born In The U.S.A. tour 2 years later.
  • In 2000, Los Lobos performed this on Badlands, a tribute album of songs from the album Nebraska.
  • Johnny Cash used the title as the name for an album he recorded in 1983. Cash covered it on the album as well as another song from Nebraska, "Highway Patrolman."
  • The Mahwah referred to in the lyrics is a New Jersey badluck auto town - the last Ford left the factory there in 1982. Mahwah is also the hometown of neo-R&B songstress Foxy Brown.

Comments: 4

  • Ross from Offaly, Irelandi have to say jonny cash's highway patrolman, johnny 99 and even further on up the road are just great, johnny can take a song and make it great, desparado by the eagles, i hung my head by sting, and i won't back down by tom petty all bested by cash's passion for music and song, but saying that, the song's were all written by the artists mentioned and thats wat really matters.
  • Matt from Ft. Lauderdale, FlThe best live versions of this song were played on the "Working On A Dream Tour". It was a full band all out jam session rocker that blew the doors off the IZOD Center and every other venue it was peformed in. Check it out on YouTube. Absolutely amazing!
  • Tyler from Hamilton, CanadaFrom the Nebraska Album which has the recurring theme of "Debts no honest man could pay".

    Johnny asks the judge to reconsider as he'd rather get sentanced to death then spend his life in prison.

    Springsteen performed this in 2004 on the Vote for Change Tour.
  • Johnny from Sault Ste. Marie, CanadaJohnny not only used the title, he recorded the song as well. It's great!
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