The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Album: The Ghost Of Tom Joad (1995)
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  • Tom Joad is a character in John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes Of Wrath. Near the end of the story, Tom makes his famous "I'll be there" speech, which is also noted in the lyrics. The idea is that the ghost of Tom Joad, the spirit of working together as a community, will prevail in times of great injustice (police brutality, economic corruption, etc.).
  • The Ghost Of Tom Joad is an acoustic album. Springsteen released it with very little publicity.
  • Springsteen wrote this as a rock song to complete the 1995 Greatest Hits album. Not liking the result, he set it aside and used it on his acoustic album a few months later.
  • The album has a focus on storytelling. The music is minimal and simply supports the stories.
  • Springsteen performed this for the first time at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit concert in 1995.
  • On the 1999 E Street Band reunion tour, Springsteen usually played this about two hours into the show. Many fans took the opportunity to grab a bathroom break or a beer.
  • Springsteen performed this at the Grammy Awards in 1997.
  • Rage Against The Machine recorded this in 1997 and released it as a single. Their version reached #35 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and #34 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. It also appeared on their 2000 album Renegades.
  • In 2008 Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello joined Springsteen and the E Street Band onstage in Anaheim to perform an electrified version of the song. Five years later, Springsteen recorded a full-band rearrangement in Los Angeles, the day before traveling to Australia for that country's leg of the Wrecking Ball Tour. This version, which featured Morello on guitar and vocals, was included on his 2014 album High Hopes. "I am not a casual Bruce Springsteen fan – I am a big Bruce Springsteen fan," Morello told Rolling Stone. "And 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' is one of his best songs. It cuts to the core of his social-justice writing. This version starts as a plaintive ballad, which feels like a lament, and becomes a full-bore rocker that feels like a threat."
  • Speaking to NPR correspondent Ann Powers, Bruce said the High Hopes version of the song was his "original realization of it." He explained: "I originally wrote it as a rock song for the E Street Band and we didn't quite pull it off and that led to The Ghost of Tom Joad acoustic album, but I always had in my mind that, you know, that was its inception. That was how it was originally conceived, so we started to fool around with it onstage. I came up with a version of it and then Tom walked in one night and just exploded the boundaries of the thing and turned it into just something else."
  • Springsteen admitted in a 2014 interview with The New York Times that he didn't read The Grapes of Wrath until after he released The Ghost of Tom Joad.

Comments: 18

  • Jack Nelson from Portsmouth, NhMy favorite version of this song is on the bonus NPR CD issued in 2007 as part of a fund raising campaign. It was recorded with the Sessions band in Dublin but the song is not on the Sessions CD or DVD. Great contribution from the horn section.
  • Kipperlenko from Canberra, AustraliaJust saw Bruce and Morello do this in Sydney last night, best song of the Gig for me, Morello smashed it, I think at one point he was playing with his face :)
    Agree with Evan above, youtube it.
  • Ethan from Sunderland, VtBruce is a devotee of Woody Guthrie. Woody's son Arlo tells about how his dad wrote his song "Tom Joad" [] after reading John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." After writing the song, Woody apparently got a letter from Steinbeck saying in essence, "Damn you! You wrote in twelve verses what took me a whole book. " Arlo then goes on to tell how the Steinbeck - Guthrie feud was only healed when Arlo married off his daughter, Sarah Lee Guthrie (a great singer/songwriter/story teller in her own right) , to Johnny Irion, Steinbeck's grandson. Is a great story, as only Arlo could tell it.
  • Gladys from Chicago, IlPerfect example of a song slightly ahead of its time... written about a character from a book set in the Great Depression, and back in 1995 when it was released, the Great Depression was some chapter in a history book....

    ...and yet, here we are again.
  • Evan from Washington Dc, Dcthis may have been a bathroom break years ago and i would have to agree, but not the way the band performs it now. An incredible solo is placed in it usually by nils that is just absolutely incredible
    i recommend youtubing this
  • William from Carlsbad, NmWatch the Rock and Roll hall of fame concert, Bruce does this with Tom Morello and Morello breaks into a solo that is just awesome, really good to watch.
  • Gregg from Southampton, United Kingdomif you really did miss the song for a bathroom break and dont regret it because ur not a fan of tom joad your not a fan of bruce springsteen your a fan of bruce springsteens catchy tunes which are unmistakably good but the real beauty in "the boss" is when you hear the words behind the music such as Born in the USA's "sent me of to a foreign land to kill the yellow man" Tom Joad just happens to be more about the words than the music. If you just like the tunes though i suggest you find his live in Dublin album with the sessions band..its amazing
  • Airk from Skagway, Ak"I don't think people who 'took a bathroom break' while bruce performed this songs are real Springsteen's fans."

    Ever heard of the term "ya gotta go, when ya gotta go."?
  • Bruce from Johnstown, PaVery Dylanesk.
  • Bruce from Columbia, ScI really like this song. Reminds me of Dylan.
    Bob Dylan that is rather than Dylan Thomas.
  • Kyle from Belleville, CanadaJust because people take a piss break during this song, doesn't make them "not real fans." Get a life, people can pee when they want to pee, or grab a beer when they want. I am not a big Tom Joad fan, but I love mostly everything else. Not a real fan?
  • Aaron from Brisbane, AustraliaThis song is one of bruce springsteen's most beautiful songs, one of his best, as Carlos said anyone who took a bathroom break during this song can't call themselves real fans
  • Megan from West Liberty, OhThe line "He's waitin' for the time when the last shall be first and the first shall be last" is based on a Bible verse, Matthew 20:16, which states, "So the last will be first, and the first will be last" (NIV).
  • Julian from Oakland, ArThe great Henry Fonda plays Tom Joad in the movie version of The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Don from San Antonio, TxRage also has it on their home video. Morello playes it on a Gibson double neck. This is a MUST SEE for Bruce OR Rage fans.
  • Sylvain from Montreal, CanadaSpringsteen once performed here in Montreal to promote the "Ghost of Tom Joad" Album. Intersting is the fact that he did not play at our Local Arena or Olympic stadium. Instead, he went to "Place des Arts," which is usually reserved for classical music or Opera. He was alone with his Guitar and Harmonica. I'still bite my tongue because i missed the show.
  • Carlos from Albacete, SpainI don´t think people who "took a bathroom break" while bruce performed this songs are real Springsteen´s fans.
  • James from Montague, CanadaRage Against the Machine covered this song. They played it live for years, and finally released it on their album of covers called Renegades (their last album).
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