THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD

Live 03 May 2009 version


[Bruce Springsteen's speech / spoken intro:] Good evening. One, two. Oh yeah. Can you give me a little more voice up here, thank you. Well as uh... as Pete and I traveled to Washington for President Obama's inaugural celebration (cheers), he told me uh... he told me the entire story of "We Shall Overcome", how it moved from a labor movement song and uh... with Pete's inspiration it'd been adopted by the Civil Rights movement. And uh... that day as we sang "This Land Is Your Land", I looked at Pete, the first black President of the United States was seated to his right. And I thought of uh... I thought of the incredible journey that, that Pete had taken, you know, my own growing up in the sixties in a town scarred by race rioting, made that moment nearly unbelievable. And Pete had thirty extra years of struggle and real activism on his belt. He was so happy that day, it was like Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man. (chuckles) (cheers) That was so nice, it was so nice. At rehearsals the day before, it was freezing, I think fifteen degrees, and Pete was there, uh... uh, he had his flannel shirt on, I said, "Man, I think you better wear something besides that flannel shirt." He says, "Yeah, I got my long johns on under this thing." As I— (chuckles) and I asked him, I said "How you wanna approach 'This Land Is Your Land', uh, as it being near the end of the show?" And all he said was, "Well, I know I wanna sing all the verses. And I wanna sing all the ones that Woody wrote, especially the two that get left out"... you know, about the private property and the relief office. And I thought uh... of course, you know that's, that's what Pete's done his whole life. He sings all the verses all the time, especially the ones that we'd like to leave out of our history as a people." (cheers) And uh... at some point, at some point Pete Seeger decided he'd be a walking, singing reminder of all of America's history. He'd be a living archive of American music and conscience, a testament to the power of song and culture, to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. He would uh... have the audacity and the courage to sing in the voice of the people. Now despite Pete's somewhat benign grandfatherly appearance, you know, he's a preacher of a stubborn, defiant and nasty optimism. (cheers) He uh... he carries... inside him he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade and it won't let him take a step back from the things he believes in. At ninety, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself. (cheers) Pete Seeger still sings all the verses all the time, and he reminds us of our immense failures as well as shining a light towards our better angels in the horizon where the country we've imagined and hold dear, we hope awaits us. And on top of it, he never wears it on his sleeve, he's become comfortable and casual in his immense role, he's funny and very eccentric, you know. The song that uh... I'm gonna bring Tommy out and the song Tommy Morello and I are about to sing, I wrote it in the mid-nineties and it started as a conversation I was having with myself. It was an attempt to regain my own bearings, and its last verse is the uh... beautiful speech that Tom Joad whispers to his mother at the end of "The Grapes Of Wrath", which is, uh, "Wherever there's a cop beating a guy or wherever a hungry newborn baby cries, wherever there's a fight against the blood and the hatred in the air, look for me, Ma, I'll be there." Well, Pete has always been there. (cheers) So. for me, for me, that speech is always aspirational, for Pete, it's simply been a way of life. The singer in my song is in search of the ghost of Tom Joad, the spirit with the guts and the toughness to carry forth, to fight for and live their ideals. I'm happy to report that the spirit of the ghost of Tom Joad is with us in the flesh tonight, will be on this stage momentarily, he's gonna look an awful lot like your granddaddy with his flannel shirts and funny hats, he's gonna look like your granddad, if your granddad can kick your ass. (cheers) So this is for Pete, come on here, Tom. Tom Morello is gonna join me on this.
Ready, Tommy?


Bruce Springsteen:[harmonica solo]

Bruce Springsteen:Men walking 'long the railroad tracks
Going someplace, there's no going back
Highway patrol choppers coming up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretching 'round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleeping in the cars in the southwest
No home, no job, no peace, no rest

Bruce Springsteen:Well the highway is alive tonight
Where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sitting down here in the campfire light
Searching for the ghost of Tom Joad

Tom Morello:He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waiting for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
You got a one-way ticket to the promised land
Springsteen and Morello:You got a hole in your belly and a gun in your hand
Tom Morello:Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Springsteen and Morello:Bathing in the city's aqueduct

Springsteen and Morello:Well the highway is alive tonight
Where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sitting down here in the campfire light
Waiting on the ghost of Tom Joad
Bruce Springsteen:Carry on!

Bruce Springsteen:[harmonica solo]

Bruce Springsteen:Now Tom said, "Mom, wherever there's a cop beating a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me, Mom, I'll be there
Tom Morello:Wherever somebody's fighting for a place to stand
Springsteen and Morello:For a decent job or a helping hand
Tom Morello:Wherever somebody's struggling to be free
Springsteen and Morello:Look in their eyes, Ma, and you'll see me"
Tom Morello:Yeah!

Springsteen and Morello:Well the highway is alive tonight
Nobody's kidding nobody about where it goes
I'm sitting down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad
Well the highway is alive tonight
Nobody's kidding nobody about where it goes
I'm sitting down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad
With the ghost of old Tom Joad
With the ghost of old Tom Joad

Bruce Springsteen:[harmonica solo]

Info

The above lyrics are for the live 03 May 2009 performance of THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY, during The Clearwater Concert. The song was played in an acoustic guitar and harmonica arrangement, as a duet with Tom Morello.

The 03 May 2009 Show

Folk artist, political activist, and environmentalist Pete Seeger celebrated his 90th birthday on 03 May 2009 with a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. Billed "The Clearwater Concert", the event was in support of Clearwater, an environmental group that Seeger founded in 1969 and whose mission is to preserve and protect the Hudson River, its tributaries and related bodies of water.

Promotional ad for the 03 May 2009 show at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
Promotional ad for the 03 May 2009 show at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
Promotional poster for the 03 May 2009 show at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
Promotional poster for the 03 May 2009 show at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
Ticket stub for the 03 May 2009 show at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
Ticket stub for the 03 May 2009 show at Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY

The Clearwater Concert featured a large all-star cast of musicians who came to pay tribute to Pete Seeger. They performed classic Seeger songs, iconic civil rights anthems, and some of their own Seeger inspired originals. Among the performer were Pete Seeger himself, Joan Baez, Billy Brag, Bruce Cockburn, Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Michael Franti, Arlo Guthrie, Ben Harper, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Taj Mahal, Dave Matthews, Roger McGuinn, John Mellencamp, Dar Williams, and many more.

Bruce Springsteen was the final artist on the bill. He delivered a lengthy speech about Pete Seeger and his struggles and activism, before performing THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD as a duet with Tom Morello. Then the stage filled with the remaining performers, including Seeger, to perform five more songs to wrap up the event. See the list below for more details.

  1. THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD (with Tom Morello)
  2. THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND (with all performers)
  3. WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN (with all performers)
  4. WELL MAY THE WORLD GO (with all performers)
  5. THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE (with all performers)
  6. GOODNIGHT IRENE (with all performers)

These are the concert's last six consecutive songs. WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN was performed by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band while all the night's performers were dancing onstage. WELL MAY THE WORLD GO was performed with Seeger's grandson Tao Rodríguez-Seeger on lead vocals.

The event aired in an edited form on 30 Jul 2009 on PBS as part of the Great Performances series. Also in an edited form, the event was officially released in 2009 on Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Celebration: The Clearwater Concert, a 2-disc DVD released by the Clearwater label. THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD (with the preceding speech) and THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND were part of the broadcast. These two, plus WELL MAY THE WORLD GO, constitute the three songs on which Springsteen appears and that were included on the DVD release.

Various artists -- Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Celebration: The Clearwater Concert
Various artists -- Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Celebration: The Clearwater Concert

Available Versions

List of available versions of THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD on this website:

THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [1995 album version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [2006 studio version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [2009 (first) studio version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [2009 (second) studio version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [2014 album version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 28 Oct 1995 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 27 Nov 1995 (NBC Studios) version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 09 Dec 1995 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 20 Feb 1996 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 23 Feb 1996 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 27 Apr 1996 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 26 Feb 1997 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 05 May 1997 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 22 Jan 1998 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 10 Dec 1998 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 19 Mar 1999 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 10 Mar 2000 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [26 Jun 2000 rehearsal version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 19 Feb 2002 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 16 Sep 2003 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 14 May 2005 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 19 Nov 2006 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 07 Apr 2008 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 04 Oct 2008 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 05 Oct 2008 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 06 Oct 2008 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 15 Apr 2009 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 03 May 2009 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 07 May 2009 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 29 Oct 2009 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 15 Mar 2012 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 26 Apr 2012 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 11 Jul 2012 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 11 Feb 2014 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 16 Jul 2016 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Live 25 Aug 2016 version]
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD [Rage Against The Machine's cover version]

Page last updated: 04 May 2015