Monday, 30 June 2008

Bruce Springsteen>The Ghost of Tom Joad

Since I seem to be on a run of 'dark' songs I thought I'd make it a trilogy. Also, rj has been in touch and I've taken a look at his great blog: 'Love Comes To Town' and he seems like a big Springsteen fan. Finally they were giving away a book of the 'greatest lyricists' in the newspaper this week - Springsteen was one of the featured artists and it reminded of just how good a song-writer he is. All in all, it's time for one of my all time favourite songs: 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' (The Ghost of Tom Joad, 1995)

Now there are lots of great things about this track. Firstly, I like the stripped down sound and the way his voice starts off so quietly. You're forced to hit the volume button and then by the time the chorus kicks in it's pretty loud but by then you don't care because you're just being carried away by it. The harmonica is also good and it's pretty easy to play, I tried it recently! (and I'm no musician). The lyrics though are what really makes this an intersting song.

You don't need to be a literary buff to know that Tom Joad features in Steinbeck's brilliant novel about the Great Depression 'The Grapes of Wrath'. I devoured this novel as an 18 year old in about 2 days but can't remember that much detail now! And here we have Springsteen talking about the ghost of the depression still haunting the world today. Poverty, unemployment, homelessness, violence - it's all there in this song and it's all there in the 'new world order'. There's a strong sense of false hope offered by the Church in both the novel and the song (also the video linked below). Despite this Tom Joad is a kind of 'Christlike' figure in the song - he can be found in the struggle, in the pain and in the injustice. Here we have echoes of Matthew 25 - for me the institution of the sacrament of service. And so when we participate in the struggle we'll find Jesus already there. Read the passage, and listen to the song here - Springsteen's got it spot on.


Cosmo said...


Thanks for your comment below regarding my literary knowledge, but I'm afraid that's about the sum of all I remember from Shakespeare (except for maybe a little, 'All the world's a stage', or 'This roysl throne of kings, this sceptred isle...'). Se what you think of a Patrick Kavanagh poem I just posted.

The only Stienbeck I've read is his disturbing 'Of Mice and Men'. I should go back to it some day and also give the Grapes a go.

I liked the feel of this song. I liked the video even more - nice concept.

The idea of Tom Joad being there, in the hard places (easier said than done) made me think of another quote.

You'll remember a couple of years ago Steve Chalke caused a bit of a stir with his book, 'The Lost Message of Jesus'. Here's something he wrote that made for a good word picture that stuck in my mind:

"The cross is often portrayed as the brige over the chasm that seperates heaven and earth. It is our means of escape. But the reality is that it stands in the centre of our decaying world - thrust into the dirt to proclaim 'God is here!'"

RJ said...

Great quote, Cosmo... it will find a way into a sermon soon. And thanks for your kavanaugh poem. I am grateful for nick's great blog helping me connect with others on the journey. Blessings to you both. RJ

RJ said...

Thanks re: your comment re: Thunder on the Mountain. There were three lines that just spoke to my sense of ministry at this moment in time: 1)I don't need any guide, I already know the way
Remember this, I'm your servant both night and day; 2)Gonna forget about myself for a while, gonna go out and see what others need; and 3)For the love of God, you ought to take pity on yourself.

It was a lot of fun (with Leonard Cohen's "Anthem" and Jewel's "Hands" thrown in, too.) Thanks again for what you do.