“Look in their eyes ma, You’ll see me” #hymnsofsocialjustice

Bruce Springsteen is teaming up with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello to release a new album called “High Hopes,” it will be out in January of 2014. The new album will include some classic rock and roll numbers and covers of some of Springsteen’s previously recorded songs with he and Morello performing them together. The idea for the album came when Morello was standing in for regular Springsteen guitarist Steve Van Zandt on a recent tour.

One of the songs that will be on the new album is my favorite Springsteen song and one of my all time favorite Hymns of Social Justice “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” For “Tom Joad” Springsteen did his homework and it shows. In this song Springsteen invokes not only the spirit of Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” hero Tom Joad, he also channels the spirit of Springsteen’s heroes Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger while he hits you in the face with a contemporary message of joblessness, homelessness,and hopelessness in modern America.

The reason that I love this song is because, as Woody might have said, it is about “my people.” For the last 6 years I have worked to help people who are disadvantaged to help them to find and to keep jobs. At this writing I am weeks away from earning a masters degree that is meant to help me be better at doing this. I have spent time, money, sweat and tears to do this, and I have re-located my family 3 times in the last 3 years in order to pursue my dream of being able to help more people find employment and help to give them the chance to have the “American Dream” of living a stable, middle class life.

Some would have you believe that most of those in poverty in the U.S.A. are there because they are lazy moochers who are full character flaws and that they are all just sitting in front of their TV’s waiting for their next Obama hand out. This is a lie. I know because they are MY people. I have worked with them and at times lived with them. Most of them are the “working poor” who are doing their damnedest to get by in a system that constantly kicks their legs out from under them.

In “Tom Joad” Springsteen preaches the story of the people that I work with everyday. Springsteen’s original recording of “Tom Joad” is a beautiful and a thought provoking ballad. His version with Tom Morello however, is a high powered, in your face, punch to the gut that seethes with the emotions that I see and far to many have to live with everyday.

“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”

2 replies »

  1. Bruce Springsteen is “Studs Terkel with a guitar.” He was the prominent Chicago journalist and radioman, and prolific compiler of hard luck stories for book publication. For him, no matter who was President, who controlled Congress, or how the economy was doing, the year was forever 1930, just as for modern radicals the year is forever 1968. Over the course of Springsteen’s career it has been forever the recession year of 1974.

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