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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Ghost of Tom Joad/Bruce Springsteen

This song, from Bruce Springsteen's 1995 album of the same name, has a contemporary (mid-1990s) setting but depicts financial hardships that parallel those of the Great Depression as depicted in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Springsteen makes the connection between the two eras by alluding to Tom Joad, the main character of the novel. In particular, the later verses paraphrase a speech by Tom that appears near the end of the book (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..."). Springsteen was also inspired by an earlier Woody Guthrie ballad, Tom Joad, as well as by the 1940 film version of The Grapes of Wrath, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Tom. Bruce captures the character of Tom Joad in a five-minute song almost as well as Ford and Fonda did in a two-hour movie.

Submitted by Bob Davison

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