tom-joad.jpgIn light of recent events, AD contributor j. neas reflects on Springsteen’s 1995 LP The Ghost of Tom Joad, and how the material makes just as much sense in 2008 (if not more). – AD

In the middle of the Clinton ’90s, it was sometimes difficult to feel like there were hard times anywhere. Sure, we were involved in Bosnia, Somalia and ignoring Rwanda, but hey! Internets were booming and the Y2K bug was everyone’s biggest concern. But leave it to the Boss to spot the rot beneath the facade.

In light of this article, his chilling “Youngstown” from The Ghost of Tom Joad is even more revelatory. The boom gone bust. Hailing from an area whose two major industries were the now defunct Cannon textile mills (which took a long, slow slide into obscurity via the NAFTA and CAFTA agreements) and Phillip Morris cigarette manufacturers, I know a bit about the collapse of industry myself.

My home area has managed to recover, but in a lot of places that just isn’t the case. In those places, for native and immigrant workers alike, the lure of easier, better money is constant. In the North Carolina mountains, the profitable, but often lethal, production of crystal meth has become one of the ways people have sought out of the hard life. The Drive-by Truckers wrote about turning to dealing in “Putting People on the Moon,” but the Boss was at it earlier on ..Tom Joad with “Sinaloa Cowboys,” one of the saddest and truest songs he has ever put to tape. – j. neas

Download:
MP3: Bruce Springsteen :: Youngstown
MP3: Bruce Springsteen :: Sinaloa Cowboys
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Amazon: Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad

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6 Responses to “Bruce Springsteen :: Youngstown/Sinaloa Cowboys”

  1. This is one of my all time favourite albums. It can seem a little lacklustre to begin with, but this is what you would call a ‘grower’. There is a great live version of Youngstown on Springsteen’s Live in NYC from 99/00. Whilst the album version is sombre and fits the mood of the album, the live version is angry and wrathful. You could apply both of those emotions to this track.

    The title track (The Ghost Of Tom Joad), which equates the plight of ‘the okies’ in 1930’s depression California to the plight of the modern day immigrant is probably my all time favourite song. It’s a theme Springsteen has stuck with of late (see, for example, Matamoras Banks).

  2. Good post. Cracker did a decent cover of “Sinaloa Cowboys” on there Countrysides album.

  3. I agree, it’s one of my favorite Springsteen albums… and never gets much press/attention. Not a “rock-out” album, but is solid from start to finish.

    I caught Bruce & the Band on tour last week in Anaheim (incredible show!) and he played “Ghost of Tom Joad” and was joined on-stage by Tom Morello from RATM. What a killer peformance!

  4. A youtube link to the song I mentioned earlier… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeOKqt5btqE

  5. Although the 90’s were a steady time of economic growth for the world’s major economies there were massive losers in the shape of those swept under the carpet and marginilised by a Clinton led Democratic government that began the trend of targeting the most weak and vulnerable sections of society and making them the scapegoats for the world’s ills. These reforms were unfortunately very popular but although portrayed as a unanimous success at the time left many families homeless and forced many people into prostitution and crime. Bruce Springsteen highlighted this problem and is an artist I admire greatly and ‘The Ghost Of Tom Joad’ is easily one of my favourite Bruce Springsteen albums not just because he had the courage to confront these issues but perhaps also of the dignity, touching warmth and most of all spirit that shines through these characters. Most people create trends or ride trends but Springsteen continually bucked them and continued to speak up for unfashionable issues with integrity and real empathy. There is a real poetic poignance to this album and my favourite track is ‘My Best Was Never Good Enough’ which closes the album with words we can all relate to I’m sure. But I can’t think of any other worldwide superstar who could so sincerely utter such simple and affecting words. Not many megastars speak up for those at the bottom of the pile in a world where it’s growing ever more fashionable to sneer and poke and even blame those less fortunate but thank God we still have the likes of Bruce Springsteen out there singing and swinging for the underdog as hard as ever.

  6. I grew up in the same town but with a different name and the lure of producing ‘homegrown’ was as strong when I left in the 90’s as the lure of producing ‘meth’ is in the 00’s. As Chinese goods increase in price by 50% and American industry scours countries like Vietnam for the next holy grail of cheap labor, factories in ‘your hometown’ and mine are being turned into museums and amusement parks. The ‘pickup-truck-and-shotgun’ set proclaim their patriotism and bitch about jobs being outsourced and then turn around and endorse the Wal-Mart-ization of America by craving more and more yet wanting to pay less and less. We have cheapened ourselves, cheapened our standards and, in turn, killed our lifeblood of industry by killing our ability to produce honest, well-built and cost-efficient products. ‘Our hometown’ is becoming a service center for rich vacationers from overseas. I’m not necessarily a political thinker — isn’t that obvious? — but I can see clearly this mess will continue to breed as long as greed trumps fairness. I’m no proclaimer of Springsteen as deity, but he has been and continues to be a voice of true America, long before it knows it’s there.

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