“[Spoken in concert – Ed.] This is a song about how quick we are to sort of abandon our own. I was just about finished with songs for the Tom Joad record and I was staying up all night – I had a little insomnia – and I went downstairs and pulled a book off the shelf. It was a book called “Journey To Nowhere” by a fella named Dale Maharidge and photos by a fella named Michael Williamson. They traveled across the country by train, hoppin’ boxcars all they way, and chronicling what they were seeing out there at the time. They were reporting on more and more people needing the services of food banks than ever before. They were people who held good jobs, who supported their families. I finished the book in one night and I put it down and I remember thinking, well, I’m a guy, I know how to do one thing. And what would happen if you’ve done something for for thirty years and end up getting thrown out like yesterday’s newspapers. So what would I say to my kids if I came home at night and I couldn’t feed them and if they were hurtin’? I couldn’t help them, I couldn’t make them safe, ensure their health. I don’t know. It strikes to such a central part of who you are. This is called “Youngstown”.”Bruce Springsteen (489)
“This song is about losing everything you have if you’ve played by all the rules.”Bruce Springsteen (544)
“Was inspired by a book called “Journey to Nowhere” by my friends Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson. Both songs [and “The New Timer” – Ed] chronicled the effects of post-industrialization in the United States and the weight of lost jobs, outsourced labor and the disappearance of our manufacturing base on the citizens whose hard work built America.”Bruce Springsteen (1195)
“I take motorcycle trips and go out to the desert, South California, Arizona. I’ll go a thousand miles, two thousand miles, where nobody recognizes you. You just meet people. I bumped into this Mexican guy in this Four Corners desert town at the end of the summer. We were all sitting outside at a table, drinking beers. It came up that this brother had been a member of a Mexican motorcycle gang in the San Fernando Valley, and he told us the story of his brother’s death in a motorcycle accident. Something about that guy stayed with me for a year. The I read an article on the drug trade in the Central Valley. All that led to the song “Sinaloa Cowboys”.”Bruce Springsteen (490)
“That song is a beautiful dream. It’s the kind of song you would have before you fell asleep, where you live in a world where beauty is still possible. And in that possibility of beauty there is still hope.”Bruce Springsteen (490)
“A song that was like a prayer or a dream you have the night before you’re going to take a dangerous journey. The singer seeks a home where his love will be rewarded, his faith restored, where a tenuous peace and hope may exist.Bruce Springsteen (1196)
“This is about the Vietnamese and Texas fishermen, about a guy who makes a particular decision not to add to the brutality and violence. He decides to let it pass on this night, to leave it alone, for whatever the reason. That’s a miracle that can happen, that does happen. People get to a certain brink, and then make a good choice, instead of a deadly choice.”Bruce Springsteen (490)
“The song asks the question: Is the most political act an individual one, something that happens in the dark, in the quiet, when someone makes a particular decision that affects his immediate world? I wanted a character who is driven to do the wrong thing but does not. He instinctively refuses to add to the violence in the world around him. With great difficulty and against his own grain, he transcends his circumstances. He finds the strength and grace to save himself and the part of the world he touches.Bruce Springsteen (1196)
““The Ghost of Tom Joad” chronicled the effects of the increasing economic division of the ’80s and ‘90s, the hard times and consequences that befell many of the people whose work and sacrifice created America and whose labor is essential to our everyday lives. We are a nation of immigrants and no one knows who’s coming across our borders today, whose story might add a significant page to our American story. Here in the early years of our new century, as at the turn of the last, we are once again at war with our “new Americans.” As in the last, people will come, will suffer hardship and prejudice, will do battle with the most reactionary forces and hardest hearts of their adopted homes and will prove resilient and victorious.”Bruce Springsteen (1196)
“I wrote this song in the mid-90s, it was a conversation I was having with myself. As you roll along, your better angels come in and out of sight. I was looking to fill my music with purpose once again. Living in California, there were a lot of migrant workers, there were immigration issues constantly. You had a sense that where California was in the mid-90s was where the rest of the country was going to be going in the next decade and it really has. A combination of running around by myself and with the band and coming in contact with a lot of people who work for a variety of grass roots social organizations who were saying the demand for their services were going up and up and up even as we heard about the economic bubble. From this song I wrote an album of songs set in the West. [Tom Joad is the main protagonist in the Steinbeck novel “The Grapes Of Wrath” – Ed.]”Bruce Springsteen (491)
“[On being asked why he was approached to write a song about AIDS – Ed.] I knew where the fear came from. I was brought up in a small town, and I basically received nothing but negative images about homosexuality – very bad. Anybody who was different in any fashion was castigated and ostracized, if not physically threatened. [On being asked if he had some personal inspiration for the song – Ed.] I had a very close friend who had a sarcoma cancer and died right around that time. For me, it was a devastating experience, being close to illness of that magnitude. I had never experienced what it calls on or asks of the people around the person who is so ill. Part of that experience ended up in the song. “Receive me, brother” is the lyric in the last verse and that’s anybody’s asking for – basically some sort of acceptance and not to be left alone.”Bruce Springsteen (492)
“[Explaining the lyrics – Ed]…
Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
Bruce – I start the song in the netherworld. That’s some place you’ve never been but it’s your world, but it’s been transformed into this unknown and unknowable place. And all I have in this netherworld is you who are in front of me and you who are behind me. That’s all I have in our connection.
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line
Bruce – On my back I have what I must do. I have my job. I have what I must do and I have the tools to do it.
Come on up for the rising
Com on up, lay your hands in mine
Bruce – the song moves into Gospel and transformation. Something is about to happen.
Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Bruce – What bells? There’s sirens, church bells, tolling bells, there’s bells of chaos, bells of transformation.
Wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here
Bruce – that is my uniform and my uniform fills me with the power and strength of my responsibility. It’s a part of who I am and what I must do.
Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li
Bruce – once again there is an unspoken subtext. They say, “Sing with me, stand along side of me, we will stand together in this.”
Spirits above and behind me
Bruce – you pray to be guided by those of have gone before you, you pray for them to guide you and give you courage and you’re going to need it.
I see you Mary in the garden
Bruce – Mary who? A wife, a lover, Jesus and Mary?
In the garden of a thousand sighs
Bruce – everybody’s been there.
There’s holy pictures of our children
Dancin’ in a sky filled with light
Bruce – I am surrounded by secret things.
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
Bruce – this is what I need, I need your arms, I need your blood. This is what I am going to miss. Your physicality and flesh and blood. My own physicalness.
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancin’ on the end of the line
Bruce – that’s just life, life, life up there on the edge of something else.
Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Bruce – that’s transformation. These are the songs that you wait for.”Bruce Springsteen (61)
“I think it’s a natural image of sacrifice. Once again moving towards religious imagery to explain some of the day’s experiences. It’s unavoidable to some degree because of the nature and the type of sacrifice that occurred. I got down towards the end of the record and I think I was searching for the voice of someone who died, and I wanted to have a voice that addresses the living. So I just sort of imagined the main character basically…I dunno, speaking to his wife. Who would you want to speak to? Your wife, and you’d think of your children. And then just those left at large, I think. The different verses move slowly towards that kind of crossing-over point. ‘The Rising’ – that was it, that was the moment when the souls rise.”Bruce Springsteen (980)
“In the beginning, the first verse is kind of disorientation and ‘Where am I?’ It starts, ‘Can’t see nothing in front of me, can’t see nothing coming up behind…All I can feel is the chain that binds me’ – the links with whatever you might wanna call it – duty, love, comradeship, the fear – that keep people going. The song moves on. The second verse is just where the person came from, ‘Left the house this morning…wearin’ the cross of my calling.’ Well, that’s just ‘this is your job’, y’know? It’s the same one you’ve worn every day and today these are its responsibilities and this is what it’s asking. The bridge of the song is a moment when I think the singer realizes that his mortality is at hand, and then in the last verse I imagine him speaking to his wife or a religious vision of some sort, ‘See Mary in the garden…’ It seemed to me that’s one of the things you’d be thinking about, and the desire for a return to a physical intimacy – ‘Feel your arms around me’ – the physical self. The fear of losing that physical self, ‘May I feel your blood mix with mine’, the desire to sustain the physical intimacy. Then, ‘A dream of life comes to me like a catfish dancin’ on the end of my line’, That was a funny line – the catfish line popped out of my head, ‘cos I fish out here once in a while and there’s that moment when bing!, y’know, you’re suspended between life and death, incredible life and a moment of death, and really I think the rest of the song turns into this mantra, ‘Sky of blackness and sorrow, sky of love’. It’s sort of the yin-yang of just what is. ‘Sky of mercy, sky of fear, sky of memory, sky of emptiness, sky of fullness.’ I think it’s the awareness of what is about to be lost, ‘A dream of life, dream of life, dream of life’ – repeat that over and over again. Just the magnitude of what you’re leaving behind, what you’re giving up, and a last chance to speak to people that matter to you. So that came up towards the end of the record. It was kind of a curtain on the whole thing. I think a lot of the other songs were moving towards that direction.”Bruce Springsteen (980)
“If you look at the first verse, it feels like it’s a guy who’s talking to his girl. ‘Baby once I thought I knew everything I needed to know about you…it’s gonna be okay if I can just get through this lonesome day.’ Then bang, the second verse – ‘Hell’s brewin’ dark sun’s on the rise, this storm’ll blow through by and by,’ so I switched right out of this personal thing to this sort of overall emotional mood and the feelings that were in the air here in the States around that time [9/11 – Ed]. But it works, because one thing works with the other and the second verse can actually come in on what was said in the first verse. The secret of the songwriting was to get personal first, then you sort of shade in universal feelings. That’s what balances the songs. All experience is personal so you have to start there, and then if you can connect in what’s happening with everyone, the universality of an experience, then you’re creating that alchemy where your audience is listening to it, they’re hearing what they’re feeling inside and they’re also feeling ‘I’m not alone’, you know? And that’s what you’re trying to do.”Bruce Springsteen (980)
“Was inspired by a book called “Journey to Nowhere” by my friends Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson. Both songs [and “Youngstown” – Ed] chronicled the effects of post-industrialization in the United States and the weight of lost jobs, outsourced labor and the disappearance of our manufacturing base on the citizens whose hard work built America.”Bruce Springsteen (1195)