Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bruce Springsteen: The Ghost of Tom Joad

Today is Blog Action Day. Over 10,000 blogs across the world will be writing about the same topic. Last year's topic was the environment. This year's topic is poverty.

Since Wednesdays are music day at Please Come Flying, I thought I'd post Bruce Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad. A live version of this song is on Serve2, a WHY: Artists Against Hunger benefit album.

If you are wondering what you and your family can do on a local and global level to help alleviate and address poverty and hunger, WHY (World Hunger Year) is a great place to start. There's even a Kids Can Make a Difference offshoot of the organization that has some great ideas.

As for the song, those of you who are John Steinbeck fans will recognize the character of Tom Joad from The Grapes of Wrath. Those of you who are Woody Guthrie fans will know him from The Ballad of Tom Joad. Guthrie's Joad ends his ballad with these last words to his mother:

Ever'body might be just one big soul
Well it looks that a way to me.
Everywhere that you look in the day or night
That's where I'm gonna be, Ma,
That's where I'm gonna be.

Wherever little children are hungry and cry
Wherever people ain't free.
Wherever men are fightin' for their rights
That's where I'm gonna be, Ma.
That's where I'm a gonna be.

Sadly, I'm unable to embed the original 1995 Springsteen video of The Ghost of Tom Joad, which is very moving. But here is Springsteen singing the song live in studio instead:

The Ghost of Tom Joad
by Bruce Springsteen

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 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
But 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."

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' downhere in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad

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