"The Ghost Of Tom Joad" as written by and 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

Well the highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kidding nobody about where it goes
I'm sitting down here in the campfire light
Searching for the ghost of Tom Joad

He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and he 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
You got a hole in your belly and a gun in your hand
Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Bathing in the city's aqueduct


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

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

Wherever somebody's fighting for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helping hand
Wherever somebody's struggling to be free
Look in their eyes, Ma, and you'll see me"

The highway is alive tonight
Where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sitting down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad

Lyrics submitted by idiotic, edited by Hesti

"The Ghost of Tom Joad" as written by Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Ghost Of Tom Joad song meanings
Add your thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +8
    My InterpretationThere's a lot of stupid comments on this song. "grapes of wrath is all this song is about": no, why would he mention "families sleeping in cars in the southwest?" and the "Ghost" of Tom Joad. this song is set in the 1990s. He even references George H.W. Bush's 1990 speech (not the conspiracy theory), which said:

    "Until now, the world we’ve known has been a world divided — a world of barbed wire and concrete block, conflict and cold war. Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a 'world order' in which 'the principles of justice and fair play ... protect the weak against the strong ...' "

    Springsteen is clearly ironically quoting Bush's speech. Bush said the "new world" wouldn't be divided, and would have justice for the weak. Obviously, five years later this didn't happen and probably never will in America.

    This is one of my favorite songs. As soon as I hear that opening harmonica I get chills. There's really something magical about this recording. It's a sad but beautiful commentary on the inequalities of life, 60 years after Guthrie wrote "The Ballad of Tom Joad". His ghost haunts us everyday, but still gives us hope for a better world. More so now than even in the 90s, with so many people losing their homes.
    chrliestlon October 27, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWow, what a powerful song.
    myleswiggylooon April 14, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Wherever somebodies fightin for a place to stand
    For a decent job or a helpin' hand
    Wherever somebody is strugglin' to be free"

    The song is clearly about more than just trying to get money. He talks about cops beating guys and blood and hatred in the air. Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but the song seems to be about something deeper. And yes, I do like the Rage version.
    wadleron August 17, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIn the book, jim casey and tom joad preach how the poor need to unite and become one soul to beat the faceless rich...BS is basically saying the same thing...The poor are being mistreated and that everyone should be treated as one soul
    bceagles11392on September 14, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe RATM version may be one of the best covers ever. I agree that this song is about how badly the American people have treated their downtrodden and underpriveleged. I think this should the church of liberalism's main anthem, it's that good of a song. Bruce Springsteen really did well when he wrote this.
    OpinionHeadon November 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love Bruce to death and find that any other artist pales in comparison. No one else sounds as good and no one else writes as well. Having said that, all of the songs written today about the plight of the common man lose their meaning when being delivered by people who tour for 2-4 years straight--charge $97.50 per ticket and joke about how their wives try to keep the highly lavish lifestyles of their famous spouses in check.

    It's easy for mega millionaires to fly into NYC or LA for a night and make an appearance on behalf of Haiti, but when was the last time you saw one of them with their sleeves rolled up and actually getting involved face to face? It rarely happens. Don't be so quick to deify these people. They are BIG TIME capitalists--no more --no less--regardless of their talent. Ask their roadies if they're humanitarians.

    Once the tours have been completed ad nauseum what comes next? Special retrospective box DVD sets to keep the faithful pouring money into the machine--or DVDs of live concert footage. I truly do think Bruce is different and expect him to surprise somehow with some proceeds going to Haiti, but....

    No one's perfect.
    cubfever7on January 24, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBeautiful song. If you guys haven't heard it, you really need to listen to the live version that has Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine (who made their own version of the song) playing with Bruce and the band.
    Hell, I'll just post the Youtube link:
    It's a brilliant performance, you guys should check it out.
    maill112on March 26, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song is also in honor of Woody Guthrie, who wrote a song called Tom Joad. Guthrie was a pioneer of musicians writing and fighting for the rights of the poor and downtrodden, and a hero of the Boss.
    TheSeattleSainton August 16, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthere's a great cover by junip. check it out
    DocDaneekaon January 29, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentUp late tonight (as usual) working on the third rewrite for the new book … and VH1 reran the 25th Hall of Fame concert … and Tom Joad just finished. Awesome song. And ya, that live version is hot.

    But I just have to leave a comment for “cubfever 7” … because you are not looking at the big picture. And I know that once you do you’ll have a change of heart about Bruce and Tom.

    Yes … it’s true that the old school musicians are ALL BIG LOTTO winners who got lucky and were mass-marketed before the internet killed the record store. (Geez I miss hanging out at Tower. It was a colorful, joyful, shared environment you just can’t get with an I-Pad.)

    And ya, they make millions on residuals (that newer artists will NEVER ever see and so they all end up with day jobs). And sure, they charge an arm and a leg for tickets but that’s because the REAL bad guys are running the show — not the artists.

    The REAL bad guys won’t invest in new venues because they can steal more of your money by charging higher margins in the huge demand they have artificially created - by short-sheeting or fractionalizing the supply (fractionalizing the supply of concert venues and advertising channels). No new venues and no new mass-marketing means new artists have to compete for peanuts, while the big entertainment corporations make bank from a huge supply of consumers with nowhere else to go. And so the old-school performers stay in the spot light (while the new guys starve and fail to regenerate attendances). Except for a few like Cold Play and Kings of Leon.


    Your banker and your government can’t anywhere near say the same. Your banker - and you new world order. (It’s an economic war of nations and the only way the nations and multi-nations [Euro] can fight other nation conglomerations for supremacy is by sacrificing their wealth and happiness of their own serfs.) It’s a pattern of rich get richer / poor get poorer that always occurs throughout world history. It happens every 250 years. And its happening now. And it doesn’t end pretty. (The conditions in the song are not even a tenth as bad as it will actually turn out to be in the near future.)

    But at least the artists aren’t stealing from you like the corporate raiders have.

    The artists are staying rich by working their asses off playing their hearts out for years on the road. They are giving you the value you want. The bad guys are just stealing your cash without even providing you something in return. The bad guys say that they are providing you with a service. A service - that you can’t see - and that can’t ever play over and over again anytime you like on the stereo. At least Bruce and the rest of them are giving you your money’s worth — even while they raise money for starving countries.

    You sound like a bitter roadie who didn’t win the record company LOTTO. You’re just like the rest of us. You’re in good company. But don’t blame the artists who give you what makes you sing. Blame the CEOs and their pockets full of politicians and their financiers who are tone deaf - and couldn’t care less if they kill us to make themselves feel like they exist.

    Oh wait! — there’s that chopper again! I gotta run. Catch you next time. (Send me a smoke signal if you can.)

    But hey - just don’t hoc the harmonica. And I won’t sell the 12-string … that way we can at least still jam (in that concrete echo chamber under the overpass).

    Love ya,
    powdersnowboyon February 15, 2012   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top