Pete Seeger - JESSE JAMES

First performance: 20/04/2006


Coverinfo

Bruce recorded the song with The Seeger Sessions Band and released it on his 2006 album We Shall Overcome:  The album was recorded over the course of nine years at Thrill Hill East, Springsteen's home studio in Colts Neck, NJ: During these sessions, all of the album's songs were cut live in the living room of Springsteen's farmhouse – they were not rehearsed and all arrangements were conducted by Springsteen as he and the band played them. "We were doing trapeze without a safety net," Sam Barfeld told Backstreets magazine. "He plays the song for you once, a couple of arrangement ideas. Have enough time to scrawl out a chord chart, and then boom! You record."
 
Note that this cover is different from the Springsteen-penned Robert Ford, which is also known under the title "Jesse James". Robert Ford is an unreleased song written by Bruce Springsteen who recorded it in studio in 1982. The song is also known under the titles "Robert Ford And Jesse James" and "Jesse James".  The song is obviously inspired or based on the 19th century folk song Jesse James, The Seeger Sessions version. 
 
 
LYRICS
 
Robert Ford and Jesse James were like brothers
Together they would loot the Danville train, train
And then, da da da da da
Da da da da da da da

Da da, to dust, and they went down the line
Baby, da da da da da da
Da da da da da da da
Da da da, da da da da da da da da da, da da da da da
Baby I can't take it now 
 
 
" ….alright, this was a historical ballad, it´s been around a long time, I guess it originated in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Jesse James by a friend for supposedly a 25-dollar reward….it was written by Billy Gashade and rewritten by Woody Guthrie in ´39 and, uh….and the whole thing sort of ends up being like they said in ´The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence´: ´When the legend becomes a fact, write the legend´ …." 
 
 
Jesse James was recorded in the first session
 
First Session : 02/11/1997 
 
  • Soon after the conclusion of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's short Vote For Change Tour, Springsteen was liaising with manager Jon Landau regarding material for a potential future second volume of the Tracks boxed set. Some of the leftover material from the 02 Nov 1997 session was being evaluated and out of those discussions came the idea of releasing this session material as a stand-alone album project. "Thanks to Jon Landau for another one of his 'I think we've got something here...' phone calls," Springsteen later wrote in the liner notes of the 2006 album.  
 
Second Session: 19/03/2005  
There were not enough songs recorded on 02 Nov 1997 to fill an album, so the original 1997 musicians were contacted again and an additional recording session took place on 19 Mar 2005, just prior to Springsteen embarking on his Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour. Nine songs were recorded during the second session: ERIE CANAL, JOHN HENRY, O MARY DON'T YOU WEEP, PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN, OLD DAN TUCKER, FROGGIE WENT A COURTIN', SHENANDOAH, MRS. MCGRATH, and MICHAEL ROW YOUR BOAT ASHORE. Eight of the songs recorded during this second session ended up on the album. 
 
Third Session: 14/01/2006
Springsteen undertook a third and final studio session following the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour. There were eight songs recorded during the third session: JACOB'S LADDER, BUFFALO GALS, EYES ON THE PRIZE, HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING?, AMERICAN LAND, BRING 'EM HOME, IF I HAD A HAMMER (THE HAMMER SONG), and 
WORRIED MAN BLUES.
 
 
 
 
Bruce performed the song 64 times: 
 
2006-04-20 - CONVENTION HALL, ASBURY PARK, NJ (Rehearsal Show)
2006-04-24 - CONVENTION HALL, ASBURY PARK, NJ (Rehearsal Show)
2006-04-25 - CONVENTION HALL, ASBURY PARK, NJ (Rehearsal Show)
2006-04-30 - NEW ORLEANS FAIRGROUNDS, NEW ORLEANS, LA (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival)
2006-05-05 - POINT THEATRE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
2006-05-07 - MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS ARENA, MANCHESTER, ENGLAND
2006-05-08 - HAMMERSMITH APOLLO, LONDON, ENGLAND
2006-05-10 - PALAIS OMNISPORTS DE PARIS-BERCY, PARIS, FRANCE
2006-05-12 - DATCH FORUM, MILAN, ITALY
2006-05-14 - PAVELLÓ OLÍMPIC DE BADALONA, BARCELONA, SPAIN
2006-05-16 - HEINEKEN MUSIC HALL, AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
2006-05-17 - FESTHALLE, FRANKFURT, GERMANY
2006-05-20 - OSLO SPEKTRUM, OSLO, NORWAY
2006-05-21 - HOVET, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
2006-05-27 - TWEETER CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, MANSFIELD, MA
2006-05-28 - NISSAN PAVILION, BRISTOW, VA
2006-05-30 - GERMAIN AMPHITHEATER, COLUMBUS, OH
2006-05-31 - VERIZON WIRELESS MUSIC CENTER, NOBLESVILLE, IN
2006-06-03 - GLENDALE ARENA, GLENDALE, AZ
2006-06-05 - GREEK THEATRE, LOS ANGELES, CA
2006-06-06 - SLEEP TRAIN PAVILION, CONCORD, CA
2006-06-10 - WELLS FARGO ARENA, DES MOINES, IA
2006-06-11 - XCEL ENERGY CENTER, ST. PAUL, MN
2006-06-13 - FIRST MIDWEST BANK AMPHITHEATER, TINLEY PARK, IL
2006-06-14 - BRADLEY CENTER, MILWAUKEE, WI
2006-06-16 - BLOSSOM MUSIC CENTER, CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH
2006-06-17 - DTE ENERGY MUSIC THEATRE, CLARKSTON, MI
2006-06-19 - SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY
2006-06-20 - TWEETER CENTER AT THE WATERFRONT, CAMDEN, NJ
2006-06-22 - MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK CITY, NY
2006-06-24 - PNC BANK ARTS CENTER, HOLMDEL, NJ
2006-06-25 - PNC BANK ARTS CENTER, HOLMDEL, NJ
2006-10-01 - PALAMALAGUTI, BOLOGNA, ITALY
2006-10-02 - PALAISOZAKI, TORINO, ITALY
2006-10-04 - VILLA MANIN, UDINE, ITALY
2006-10-05 - ARENA DI VERONA, VERONA, ITALY
2006-10-07 - ARENA SANTA GIULIANA, PERUGIA, ITALY
2006-10-08 - PALAMAGGIÒ, CASERTA, ITALY
2006-10-10 - PALALOTTOMATICA, ROME, ITALY
2006-10-12 - COLOR LINE ARENA, HAMBURG, GERMANY
2006-10-13 - SPORTPALEIS AHOY, ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
2006-10-19 - PLAZA DE TOROS DE LAS VENTAS, MADRID, SPAIN
2006-10-21 - ESTADIO CIUTAT DE VALÈNCIA, VALENCIA, SPAIN
2006-10-22 - PLAZA DE TOROS DE GRANADA, GRANADA, SPAIN
2006-10-24 - PALAU SANT JORDI, BARCELONA, SPAIN
2006-10-25 - PABELLÓN DEPORTIVO, SANTANDER, SPAIN
2006-10-28 - PARKEN STADIUM, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
2006-10-29 - OSLO SPEKTRUM, OSLO, NORWAY
2006-10-30 - GLOBE ARENA, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
2006-11-06 - KÖLNARENA, COLOGNE, GERMANY
2006-11-07 - SPORTPALEIS, ANTWERP, BELGIUM
2006-11-09 - THE NEC ARENA, BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND
2006-11-11 - WEMBLEY ARENA, LONDON, ENGLAND
2006-11-12 - WEMBLEY ARENA, LONDON, ENGLAND
2006-11-14 - HALLAM FM ARENA, SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND
2006-11-17 - POINT THEATRE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
2006-11-18 - POINT THEATRE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
2006-11-19 - POINT THEATRE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
2006-11-21 - ODYSSEY ARENA, BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND
2014-05-01 - MIDFLORIDA CREDIT UNION AMPHITHEATRE, TAMPA, FL
2014-05-03 - NEW ORLEANS FAIRGROUNDS, NEW ORLEANS, LA (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival)
2014-05-06 - CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION, HOUSTON, TX
2014-05-17 - MOHEGAN SUN ARENA, UNCASVILLE, CT
2015-05-16 - TRIBECA GRILL, NEW YORK CITY, NY (Kristen Ann Carr Fund Gala) (Gotham Playboys)
 

Songinfo

"Jesse James" is a 19th-century American folk song about the outlaw of the same name, written by Billy Gashade and rewritten by Woody Guthrie in ´39 , first recorded by Bentley Ball in 1919 and subsequently by many others. The lyrics are largely biographical containing a number of details from Jesse James' life, portraying him as an American version of Robin Hood, though there is no evidence to indicate that he actually "stole from the rich and gave to the poor". The song is the starting point of the Jesse James panel of a mural on American folk songs by Thomas Hart Benton. Robert Ford, who killed Jesse, was a James' gang member. Mr. Howard was the alias that James lived under in Saint Joseph, Missouri at the time of his killing. It is the most famous song about James. Part of the song is heard at the end of the 1939 movie, Jesse James. The composer of the song is unknown, but it is attributed in the lyrics of some versions to a to "Billy Gashade" or ""Billy LaShade", though no historical record exists for anyone under either name. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Bruce on the artist

In 2006, Bruce released  the album ' We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions' . The album contains Springsteen's interpretation of thirteen folk music songs associated with Pete Seeger. The project began in late 1997 when Springsteen agreed to contribute a recording for an upcoming Pete Seeger tribute album on Appleseed Recordings. "Growing up a rock n' roll kid I didn't know a lot about Pete's music or the depth of his influence," Springsteen later wrote in the liner notes of his 2006 album. He headed to the record store, came back with an armful of Pete Seeger records, and proceeded to investigate and listen to his music.
 
More info on Springsteenlyrics.
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
"As Pete and I traveled to Washington for President Obama's Inaugural Celebration, he told me the entire story of "We Shall Overcome". How it moved from a labor movement song and with Pete's inspiration had been adapted by the civil rights movement. 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 the incredible journey that Pete had taken. My own growing up in the sixties in towns 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 ao happy that day, it was like, Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man!...It was so nice. At rehearsals the day before, it was freezing, like fifteen degrees and Pete was there; he had his flannel shirt on. I said, man, you better wear something besides that flannel shirt! He says, yeah, I got my longjohns on under this thing. And I asked him how he wanted to approach "This Land Is Your Land". It would be near the end of the show and all he said was, "Well, I know I want to sing all the verses, I want to sing all the ones that Woody wrote, especially the two that get left out, about private property and the relief office." I thought, of course, 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. 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 America's music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. He would have the audacity and the courage to sing in the voice of the people, and despite Pete's somewhat benign, grandfatherly appearance, he is a creature of a stubborn, defiant, and nasty optimism. 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 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself. Pete Seeger still sings all the verses all the time, and he reminds us of our immense failures as well as shining a light toward our better angels and the horizon where the country we've imagined and hold dear we hope awaits us. Now on top of it, he never wears it on his sleeve. He has become comfortable and casual in this immense role. He's funny and very eccentric. I'm gonna bring Tommy out, and the song Tommy Morello and I are about to sing I wrote in the mid-nineties and it started as a conversation I was having with myself. It was an attempt to regain my own moorings. Its last verse is the beautiful speech that Tom Joad whispers to his mother at the end of The Grapes of Wrath."

'Wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there'

"Well, Pete has always been there. 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 who has the guts and toughness to carry forth, to fight for and live their ideals. I'm happy to report that spirit, the very ghost of Tom Joad is with us in the flesh tonight. He'll be on this stage momentarily, he's gonna look an awful lot like your granddad who wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He's gonna look like your granddad if your granddad could kick your ass. ..

This is for Pete... "
 

Lyrics

Jesse James was a lad
That killed many a man
He robbed the Glendale train
He stole from the rich
And he gave to the poor
He'd a hand and a heart and a brain
Well it was Robert Ford
That dirty little coward
I wonder now how he feels
For he ate of Jesse's bread
And he slept in Jesse's bed
And he laid poor Jesse in his grave
Well Jesse had a wife
To mourn for his life
Three children
Now they were brave
Well that dirty little coward
That shot Mr. Howard
He laid poor Jesse in his grave
Well Jesse was a man
A friend to the poor
He'd never rob a mother or a child
There never was a man with the law in his hand
That could take Jesse James when alive
It was on a Sunday night
Well the moon was shining bright
They robbed the Glendale train
And people they did say o'er many miles away
It was those outlaws Frank and Jesse James
Well Jesse had a wife
To mourn for his life
Three children
Now they were brave
Well that dirty little coward
That shot Mr. Howard
He laid poor Jesse in his grave
Now the people held their breath
When they heard of Jesse's death
They wondered how he'd ever come to fall
Robert Ford it was a fact
He shot Jesse in the back
While Jesse hung a picture on the wall
Jesse went to rest with his head on his breast
The devil upon his knee
He was born one day in County Clay
And he came from a solitary race
Well Jesse had a wife
To mourn for his life
Three children
Now they were brave
Well that dirty little coward
That shot Mr. Howard
He laid poor Jesse in his grave