Bruce covered the song only once:
1996-09-29 - SEVERANCE HALL, CLEVELAND, OH
Woody Guthrie tribute concert featuring numerous musicians and highlighted by Springsteen's first ever performance with folk icon Pete Seeger. The first six songs feature Springsteen solo or in the lead role. The last four songs feature Springsteen in a support/background role. Other performers from the night include Joe Ely, Arlo Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Dave Pirner, Indigo Girls, Country Joe McDonald, Jimmy LaFave, Paul Metsa, Syd Straw, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Tim Robbins (who introduces Bruce), Fred Hellerman, Peter Glazer, and Craig Werner.
Soundboard recordings of four of these performances—"Riding In My Car", "Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee)", "Hard Travelin' Hootenanny" and "This Land Is Your Land" (with Arlo Guthrie's story "'Til We Outnumber 'Em" superimposed)—were officially released in May 2000 on the various artists charity CD 'Til We Outnumber 'Em (Righteous Babe).
Bruce on the artist
Bruce was very much inspired by the Dust Bowl-era folk troubadour.
He covered his signature song "This Land Is Your Land
" all throughout
the 1980s, and was directly inspired to record The Ghost of Tom
Guthrie's work, especially "Tom Joad Blues."
"There was always some
spiritual center amid Woody's songs," Springsteen said in 1996. "He
always projected a sense of good times in the face of it all. He always
got you thinking about the next guy, he took you out of yourself. I
guess his idea was salvation isn't individual. Maybe we don't rise and
fall on our own."
The ghost of Tom Joad
was first of all inspired by John Ford's 1940 film adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1939 classic novel The Grapes Of Wrath. The references at the end of The Ghost Of Tom Joad album's credits list some of the source materials, including "John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath, written by Nunnally Johnson, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, a Twentieth Century-Fox film." Springsteen's song, however, is set in the 80's or 90's, with contemporary times being likened to Dust Bowl images. The song also takes inspiration from Woody Guthrie
's 1940 song Tom Joad
, which explores the novel's protagonist's life. In 1995, Springsteen got in touch with John Steinbeck's widow Elaine Steinbeck to ask permission to use the name of the character from The Grapes of Wrath.
In 2006 he recorded an acoustic version as a duet with Pete Seeger.
I've got to know, yes, I've got to know, friend;
Hungry lips ask me wherever I go!
Comrades and friends all falling around me
I've got to know, yes, I've got to know.
Why do your war boats ride on my waters?
Why do your death bombs fall from my skies?
Why do you burn my farm and my town down?
I've got to know, friend, I've got to know!
What makes your boats haul death to my people?
Nitro blockbusters, big cannons and guns?
Why doesn't your ship bring food and some clothing?
I've sure got to know, folks, I've sure got to know!
Why can't my two hands get a good pay job?
I can still plow, plant, I can still sow!
Why did your lawbook chase me off my good land?
I'd sure like to know, friend, I've just got to know!
What good work did you do, sir, I'd like to ask you,
To give you my money right out of my hands?
I built your big house here to hide from my people,
Why you crave to hide so, I'd love to know!
You keep me in jail and you lock me in prison,
Your hospital's jammed and your crazyhouse full,
What made your cop kill my trade union worker?
You'll hafta talk plain 'cause I sure have to know!
Why can't I get work and cash my big paycheck?
Why can't I buy things in your place and your store?
Why do you close my plant down and starve all my buddies?
I'm asking you, sir, 'cause I've sure got to know!