The Ghost of Tom Joad


"The Ghost of Tom Joad" (Bruce Springsteen, 1995). Inspired by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Woody Guthrie's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," Springsteen used Depression-era imagery of the disenfranchised traveling from the dusty fields of Oklahoma to California along Route 66 in a contemporary setting. In Springsteen's song, men walk along the tracks and cook their meals over an open flame, but do so under the eye of police helicopters and in the context of the first Gulf war. The lyrics "Shelter line stretching 'round the corner/ Welcome to the new world order" is a reference to George H. W. Bush's delusion that cooperation with the Soviet Union in Kuwait would lead to one harmonious, post-Cold War world. But as Springsteen knew, Bush's new world would not be realized, as "Families sleeping in the cars in the southwest" have "no home, no job, no peace, no rest." The song was also recorded by Rage Against the Machine, and in 2009, Springsteen performed the song with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.