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Bruce Springsteen - The Ghost of Tom Joad (Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Concert 2009)

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Raging Against The Machine

At the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame concert that celebrated soul, blues, heavy-metal, funk, folk and fusion, it was Springsteen who brought the protest music into the house, both with John Fogerty doing “Fortunate Son,” and inviting Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine to join him on “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

Springsteen tapped John Steinbeck’s civil-disobedience hero to remind us in the present that not that much has changed from the dustbowl depression — people are still living in a cardboard boxes “sleeping on a pillow of solid rock.”

Rage covered “Joad” on their 2000 “Renegades” album, and Morello had joined Springsteen once before on stage in L.A. on the song, so it was the familiar hitting the fire, and what an explosion!  To give you an idea, B.B. King watched Morello play from a monitor backstage — and then asked Tom for a guitar lesson after the show. 

First they trade off verses and share the chorus’s, then there’s a raging exchange of solos before the final verse reverts to Springsteen’s haunting acoustic version — voice, accordion and cymbal.  Then, Lordy, then — it fucking explodes into Morello’s jaw-dropping sonic assault that you have to see and hear to believe.  It’s a full two minutes of making love to his Lucille, searching the darkness for the ghosts, and raging like hell against the machine.

Kesey called it the combine. Orwell called it Big Brother. Thoreau called it the machine. And it was the first Dylan, Thomas, who implored us to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  And here Morello and Springsteen are raging gloriously and unleashing the wrath in the name of Tom Joads everywhere.

 

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