Woody Guthrie - I Ain't Got No Home

First performance: 23/09/1988


When asked to contribute a recording for a tribute album for Guthrie (and Leadbelly), Bruce provided not one but two: "Vigilante Man," and "I Ain’t Got No Home." Bruce recorded " I Ain’t Got No Home" in his home studio, in a quiet, vulnerable arrangement that features just him, Roy, and Nils. Bruce changed the lyrics, making the song both more modern and more inclusive. Both songs were released in August 1988 on the album Folkways: A Vision Shared. Bruce also contributed a live performance to the album’s companion documentary film. That performance was recorded at a Madison Square Garden soundcheck on May 19, 1988).
Bruce performed the song 14 times ( rehearsels, snippets and soundchecks included )
2012-03-15 Moody Theater, Austin, TX
Following the keynote speech, Bruce performs an intimate concert at Moody Theater, the theater and studio for Austin City Limits. Tickets were only available via raffle to festival badgeholders who applied on the South By Southwest website.
2012-03-12 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Private rehearsals for the tour come to a close with an afternoon in Asbury Park's Convention Hall. Songs rehearsed also include Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man". 
2009-03-23 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
First public rehearsal show for the Working On A Dream Tour. First full E Street rendition of Woody Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home" (which was dropped from the set after this show)
2009-03-21 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Closed rehearsal for the upcoming Working On A Dream" tour. Springsteen and the E Street Band. 
2009-03-18 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Closed rehearsal with Springsteen and the E Street Band along with the backing singers. ( rehearseled 4 times ) 
2009-03-17 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Closed rehearsal for the upcoming Working On A Dream" tour. Springsteen and the E Street Band.
1993-06-24 Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ
Concert To Fight Hunger to benefit World Hunger Year, The Food & Hunger Hotline and The Community Food Bank Of New Jersey. A night of many guests: Joe Ely plays guitar and sings on "I Ain't Got No Home"
1993-04-23 Flanders Expo, Ghent, Belgium 
1993-04-13 Halle Tony Garnier, Lyon, France

1993-03-23 Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ
Warm up and benefit show for the upcoming tour 
performed during Amnesty International - Human Rights Now!" tour. "I Ain't Got No Home" is played by Bruce alone on acoustic guitar and harmonica.  
1988-05-19 Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY 
Soundchecked: reported to include the filming of the Folkways promo versions of Vigilante man / I ain't got no home.
1988-02-00 Expo Theater, Fort Monmouth, NJ 
Recording (in a "live" rehearsal setting), as well as filming (by director Jim Brown) of two Woody Guthrie-penned songs for the upcoming charity album and PBS film documentary A Vision Shared: Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly. 
  • Snippet
during SEEDS
2009-07-14 Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland 
Bruce raps a verse of Woody Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home" in the midsection of "Seeds". 


I ain't got no home in this world anymore is a song written (words and music) by Woody Guthrie. It was recorded by Guthrie on 26 Apr 1940 . Thi recording were originally released in 1940 on Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads Volume 1 (catalogue # P 27) and Dust Bowl Ballads Volume 2 (catalogue # P 28), each being a three-disc collection of 78 rpm records. I ain't got no home in this world anymore was included on the second volume, size E. Woody Guthrie also recorded the song earlier in 1940, but this version from the RCA Victor session is the most known one. The song is more known under the shortened title "I Ain't Got No Home" as listed on the Folkways: A Vision Shared - A Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly. The song is also known as "Blowin' Down This Road" which was used on the 1940 release Dust Bowl Ballads Volume 2. The original song encourages the poor to consider their suffering on this earth as advance payment for eternal reward in the afterlife. Guthrie had a problem with that notion, so he used the same melody and lyrical structure to instead shed light and awareness on those who truly had no home in the world. 
Guthrie took liberties to rewrite the song himself from the traditional hymn, “I Can’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore.”

Other cover versions

Bruce on the artist

2021-05-13 Stone Hill Farm Colts, Neck, NJ 
Bruce received the Woody Guthrie Prize from the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 13 2021.
According to the Guthrie Center, Springsteen has "used his storytelling ability to write songs that connect with people who faced the hard times and celebrated the good times,".
"I’m honored to receive the 2021 Woody Guthrie Prize. Woody wrote some of the greatest songs about America’s struggle to live up its ideals in convincing fashion. He is one of my most important influences and inspirations."
2012-03-15 Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
" I covered a lot of ground, but there was still something missing. So, somewhere in my late twenties I picked up Joe Klein’s "Woody Guthrie, A Life." And as I read that book, a world of possibilities that predated Dylan’s, that had inspired him, and lead to some of his greatest work, opened up for me. Woody’s gaze was – it was set on today’s hard times. But also, somewhere over the horizon, there was something. Woody’s world was a world where fatalism was tempered by a practical idealism. It was a world where speaking truth to power wasn’t futile, whatever its outcome. Why do we continue to talk about Woody so many years on, never had a hit, never went platinum, never played in an arena, never got his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone. But he’s a ghost in the machine – big, big ghost in the machine. And I believe it’s because Woody’s songs, his body of work, tried to answer Hank Williams’ question: why your bucket has a whole in it. And that’s a question that’s eaten at me for a long time. So, in my early 30s, his voice spoke to me very, very deeply. And we began to cover “This Land is Your Land” in concert. And I knew I was never gonna be Woody Guthrie. I liked Elvis, and I liked the Pink Cadillac too much. I like the simplicity, and the tossed–off temporary feeling of pop hits. I liked big, fucking noise. And in my own way, I like the luxuries and the comforts of being a star. I had already gone a long way down a pretty different road. So four years ago, I found myself in an unusual situation. It was a cold winter day, and I was standing alongside of Pete Seeger, and it was 25 degrees. Pete had come to Washington. Pete carries a banjo everywhere he goes – the subway, the bus – and comes out in his shirt. I said, “Man, Pete, put on a jacket, man, it’s freezing out here.” He’s ninety years old, a living embodiment of Woody’s legacy. And there were several hundred thousand of our fellow citizens in front of us. We had the Lincoln Memorial behind us and a newly–elected president to our right. And we were going to sing, “This Land is Your Land” in front of all these Americans. And Pete insisted, “We have to sing all the verses. We have to sing all the verses, man. You can’t leave any of them out.” I said, I don’t know, Pete, there’s only – we had, like, a crowd of six year old school kids behind us. He says, “No, we’re all gonna sing all the verses – all the verses. And, so we got to it."
A Vision Shared - A Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly is a various artists benefit documentary and home video in support of Folkways Records and the Woody Guthrie Archives. Narrated by Robbie Robertson, it features interviews with and performances by leading folk, rock, and country recording artists including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and others. The documentary premiered on Showtime on 17 Sep 1988 and was released as a home video by Columbia Records later that year. It was originally issued on VHS and Laserdisc and in October 2000 it was reissued on DVD
This land is your land recorded in 2009. It was used in the 2009 documentary The People Speak, closing the film before the credits roll. The documentary was released on home video the following year. Released on 09 Feb 2010. Bruce Springsteen was inspired by the works of historian and activist Howard Zinn. In an interview published in the 15 Nov 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, he told Joe Levy: "Howard Zinn's A People's History Of The United States had an enormous impact on me. It set me down in a place that I recognized and felt I had a claim to. It made me feel that I was a player in this moment in history, as we all are, and that this moment in history was mine, somehow, to do with whatever I could. It gave me a sense of myself in the context of this huge American experience and empowered me to feel that in my small way, I had something to say, I could do something. It made me feel a part of history, and gave me life as a participant." The People Speak is a 2009 documentary narrated by historian Howard Zinn and is based on his books A People's History Of The United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices Of A People's History Of The United States. It premiered on History on 13 Dec 2009. The film weaves archival footage and interviews with musical performances and dramatic readings of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans throughout the country's history. Most of the movie was shot on location in front of a live audiences at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston, MA, in January 2008 and at the Malibu Performing Arts Center in Malibu, CA, in 2008. Other performances from around the country filmed in 2008 and 2009 were also used. For the film, Bruce Springsteen recorded two new solo acoustic renditions (guitar and harmonica) of The ghost of Tom Joad and Woody Guthrie's This land is your land.
The performances were filmed live at his home studio in New Jersey probably around early 2009. Interestingly, promotional footage for The People Speak shows that Howard Zinn was present at Springsteen's home when the two songs were recorded. This land is your land  was used in the documentary, closing the film before the credits roll, while The ghost of Tom Joad was posted on Bruce Springsteen's official website in January 2010. Later in 2009 a new version of The ghost of Tom Joad was recorded (in the same arrangement) and released exclusively on The People Speak soundtrack album.

The influence of Guthrie on Bruce is been well-documented.  He covered his signature song "This Land Is Your Land" all throughout the 1980s, and was directly inspired to record The Ghost of Tom Joad by 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." (source)
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.


Original Woody Guthrie version

I ain't got no home, I'm just a roamin' around
Just a wandering worker, I go from town to town
And the police make it hard wherever I may go
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore

My brothers and my sisters are stranded on this road
A hot and dusty road that a million feet have trod
Rich men took my home and drove me from my door
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore

Was farmin' on the shares and always I was poor
My crops I laid into the banker's store
My wife took down and died upon the cabin floor
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore

Now as I look around it's mighty plain to see
This world is such a great and a funny place to be
Oh, the gamblin' man is rich and the workin' man is poor
And I ain't got no home in this world anymore