James Taylor - Millworker

First performance: 06/02/2006


Bruce performed the song only once:
2006-02-06 Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA 
The song was performed during the annual MusiCares benefit kicks off Grammy week. Bruce covers "Person Of The Year" James Taylor's "Millworker". Other artists performing include Sting, Bonnie Raitt, and Alison Krauss. Bruce played the song in a solo acoustic guitar and harmonica arrangement. 3Bruce's version of 'Millworker' was a completely new and different take," James Taylor said. "Much more intense, pointing out the aspect that had to do with workers' conditions." The ceremony was broadcast on TV and was later released on DVD . In the spoken intro Springsteen references his 28 Oct 1972 show at West Chester College in West Chester, PA, when Bruce Springsteen opened for the second-billed acapella group The Persuasions and headlining comedy duo Cheech & Chong. 


"Millworker," or "Millwork," is a song written by James Taylor. It was originally written for the Stephen Schwartz Broadway musical Working. Taylor's own recording was released on his 1979 album Flag along with "Brother Trucker," which Taylor also wrote for Working. According to Taylor, he was inspired to write the song quickly one night at his home in Martha's Vineyard, "about six feet" from where he wrote his earlier song "Secret O' Life. He was initially impressed with the song and how he was able to write it from the perspective of a woman. He originally started writing the song about a truck driver, rather than a millworker, and according to Taylor the lyrics are not about any particular character in the book by Studs Terkel, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do which was the basis for the musical Working. However, according to Bruce Springsteen biographer Marc Dolan ( Bruce Springteen and the promise of Rock and Roll ) the lyrics were based on the words of union organizer Grace Clements, who was interviewed for Terkel's book. In the completed song, the protagonist became a young woman in the 1800s, who had been married to a drunken man and was forced to work in the textile mill after he died and left her alone with three children to feed. As relief from her drudgery she daydreams of her father's smile and her grandfather's stories. She recognizes that she is trapped and that her life is wasted because she made some poor choices. As she sings, she is miserable and old before her time, with nothing to look forward to.Taylor biographer Mark Robowsky describes the song as "a transfixing self-portrait through the tired eyes of a female laborer chained by life to her 'machine'.

Bruce on the artist

intro to "Millworker"
"Thank you…thanks…I guess I’m not gonna be announced because I think I’m supposed to be a surprise or something ….but I personally, I personally am surprised, I thought this was gonna be a very small dinner and I was the only one playing….I tend to be a little on the reclusive side so it’s…but, uh, tonight is kind of filled with resonance, I’m glad to be here with James and, uh, also the first gig I ever had after I made an album was opening in Pennsylvania for Cheech and Chong so ….But I'm glad to be here tonight for James. James to me was always uh... for me he was always an authentic southern voice. And uh... I guess you, you grew up in Massachusetts but you lived– you were born in Carolina, am I right? (James Taylor signals Springsteen that it's the other way around) The other way around? Thank god, that makes sense for my story here because, uh, it was always something deeply southern in James' voice. One night we played New York and he sand, uh, he sang "The River" and it was just uh... he just did such a beautiful thing with it. And, uh, besides being an incredible songwriter and, and musician, he's also the star of my all-time favorite films, "Two-Lane Blacktops". Uh was that– that was that the only one? There was never another one? That was it? That's a cool one though. That was a good one to choose. If you haven't see "Two-Lane Blacktop", see "Two-Lane Blacktop". He's, he's fabulous, you know. Alright, this is "Millworker".
Bruce had 6 performances with James Taylor:
2016-12-14 Carnegie Hall, New York City
Bruce performs at the 27th Rainforest Fund Concert.  
2004-10-11 MCI Center, Washington
Finale of the Vote For Change concert series 

1995-04-12 Carnegie Hall, New York City
The sixth annual Rock for The Rainforest benefit for the Rainforest Foundation. With various artists. "The River" is a duet with James Taylor 

1990-01-17 Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City
Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame all-star jam. 
1987-12-13 Madison Square Garden, New York City
All Star Benefit for the Homeless Children. Bruce backs Dion on "A Teenager In Love", along with Paul Simon, Rubén Blades, Lou Reed, James Taylor, and Billy Joel. "Born To Run" is the solo acoustic version. "Glory Days" is with Paul Simon and Billy Joel, backed by David Letterman's house band, The World's Most Dangerous Band. The Chuck Berry classic "Rock And Roll Music", which features all of the evening's performers, with Bruce, Billy Joel, James Taylor, and Paul Simon taking verses. The lineup for the night was Paul Simon, Paul Shaffer and The World's Most Dangerous Band, Lou Reed, Dion, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Laurie Anderson, Rubén Blades, James Taylor, Nile Rodgers with Chaka Khan, and Billy Joel; also joining in were Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Chevy Chase, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Cosby, Kevin Nealon, Lorne Michaels, and the baseball stars Don Mattingly and Ron Darling, who introduced Bruce. 

1978-03-17 Trax, New York City
Springsteen, along with James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, J.D. Souther, Dickey Betts (of the Allman Brothers Band) and legendary promoter Bill Graham attend a performance by Warren Zevon at this tiny club then-located at 100 West 72nd Street. Zevon had just begun his Excitable Boy tour and this show (which didn't start until 3am and lasted for nearly two hours) may have been of an invitation-only or promotional nature. At some point during the show some of the under-noted musicians/celebrities took the stage as a troupe to perform the "werewolf howls" background vocals on "Werewolves Of London". Springsteen was definitely present but there are conflicting accounts if Bruce was part of the on-stage troupe or not. Springsteen also performed at another Zevon concert three months later on June 23). Warren Zevon / David Landau / Rick Marotta / Stanley Sheldon  / Waddy Wachtel / Dickey Betts (Guest) / Bill Graham (Guest) / Linda Ronstadt (Guest) / J.D. Souther (Guest) / Bruce Springsteen (Guest) / James Taylor (Guest) 


Now my grandfather was a sailor, he blew in off the water
My father was a farmer and I his only daughter
Took up with a no good millworking man from Massachusetts
Who dies from too much whiskey and leaves me these three faces to feed

Millwork ain't easy, millwork ain't hard
Millwork it ain't nothing but an awful boring job
I'm waiting for a daydream to take me through the morning
And put me in my coffee break where I can have a sandwich and remember

Then it's me and my machine for the rest of the morning
For the rest of the afternoon and the rest of my life

Now my mind begins to wander to the days back on the farm
I can see my father smiling at me, swinging on his arm
I can hear my granddad's stories of the storms out on Lake Erie
Where vessels and cargoes and fortunes and sailors' lives were lost

Yes but it's my life has been wasted and I have been the fool
To let this manufacturer use my body for a tool
I can ride home in the evening, staring at my hands
Swearing by my sorrow that a young girl ought to stand a better chance

At day I work the mills just as long as I am able
And never meet the man whose name is on the label
It be me and my machine for the rest of the morning
And the rest of the afternoon gone for the rest of my life