YOUNGSTOWN

Album version

Here in northeast Ohio, back in eighteen-o-three
James and Danny Heaton found the ore that was linin' Yellow Creek
They built a blast furnace here along the shore
And they made the cannon balls that helped the Union win the war

Here in Youngstown, here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

Well my daddy worked the furnaces, kept 'em hotter than hell
I come home from 'Nam worked my way to scarfer, a job that'd suit the devil as well
Well taconite coke and limestone fed my children and made my pay
Them smokestacks reachin' like the arms of God into a beautiful sky of soot and clay

Here in Youngstown, here in Youngstown
Sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works when he come home from World War Two
Now the yard's just scrap and rubble, he said "Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do."
Yeah these mills they built the tanks and bombs that won this country's wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam, now we're wondering what they were dyin' for

Here in Youngstown, here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

From the Monongahela valley to the Mesabi iron range
To the coal mines of Appalachia, the story's always the same
Seven hundred tons of metal a day, now sir you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough, rich enough to forget my name

And Youngstown, and Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I'm sinkin' down
Here darlin' in Youngstown

When I die I don't want no part of heaven, I would not do heaven's work well
I pray the devil comes and takes me to stand in the fiery furnaces of hell


Page last updated: 13 Jan 2012

Intro

Music and lyrics by Bruce Springsteen, YOUNGSTOWN is the fourth track on his 1995 album The Ghost Of Tom Joad. The song is a bleak parable about the decay of industrialized America. It was played live acoustic on solo tours, and full-band on E Street Band tours.

The above lyrics are for Springsteen's studio version of YOUNGSTOWN as released on The Ghost Of Tom Joad.

The Story behind the Song

In 1985, author Dale Maharidge and photographer Michael Williamson published a book titled Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass. The book chronicles the new class of unemployed and dispossessed workers that had arisen in the early 80's in the US. Springsteen was one of 15,000 people who bought a copy when the book was first published. And then, he says, "I sort of put it away on the shelf."

Ten years later, on a sleepless night in his Beverly Hills home, Springsteen reached to the bookshelf and pulled Journey To Nowhere; this ultimately provided the catalyst for the completion of his new album, The Ghost Of Tom Joad. "I was downstairs one night and I pulled [Journey To Nowhere] out and started to read it," he told the Washington Post. "And I read the whole book straight through. It's very powerful and basically it was a source for me for 'Youngstown' and 'The New Timer'." He told Bob Costas in an interview that he was very frightened when he closed the book. "You never know what tomorrow brings. It strikes you straight some sort of real." He added, "What if you couldn't take care of your family? What if you had to leave them? What if you couldn't be home with your sons and your daughters? What if you couldn't pay for their health care, and couldn't provide them with the health care that they need?"

[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce book cover]

By the time Springsteen recorded The Ghost Of Tom Joad, the book had gone out of print. In an effort "to replay something that meant something to me," he talked about the book in concerts during The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour. When the publisher Hyperion Books decided to reprint it in March 1996, Springsteen wrote a new introduction for the book. In it, he mentions that he "had completed most of the Tom Joad record when one night, unable to sleep, I pulled this book down off my shelf. I read it in one sitting and I lay awake frightened by its implications. In the next week I wrote 'Youngstown' and 'The New Timer'." 15 years later, Springsteen introduced Maharidge and Williamson's work again, with his foreword to their 2011 book, Someplace Like America: Tales From the New Great Depression.

YOUNGSTOWN is a tribute to the family line of steel workers in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. It ponders the corporate bosses who built a steel plant in Youngstown, used up the local resources, and then walked away. The narrator's father says: "Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do". That particular scenario is directly taken from Journey To Nowhere, in which laid off Youngstown steelworkers Joe Marshall Sr. and Jr. are poking through the rubble of the Campbell Works, whose six 10-story blast furnaces have been dynamited: "How could they shut us down?" The older man pauses. "What Hitler couldn't do, they did it for him."

Recording

YOUNGSTOWN was recorded sometime between April and June 1995 at Thrill Hill Recording (Springsteen's home studio) in Beverly Hills, CA. On this track, Springsteen handles guitar and vocals and is backed up by five musicians: Jim Hanson on bass, Gary Mallaber on drums and percussion, Chuck Plotkin on keyboard, Marty Rifkin on pedal steel guitar, and Soozie Tyrell on violin. The track, as well as the rest of the album, was produced by Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Plotkin and recorded and mixed by Toby Scott at Thrill Hill Recording.

People and Locations

Youngstown is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio. Endowed with large deposits of coal and iron as well as "old growth" hardwood forests needed to produce charcoal, the Youngstown area eventually developed a thriving steel industry. The area's first blast furnace, the Hopewell Furnace, was established in 1803 by James and Daniel Heaton; it was built on the banks of Yellow Creek in what is now Struthers. It was the first blast furnace in Ohio and likely the first one west of the Allegheny Mountains. The song's lyrics were sometimes misheard as James and Dan "Eaton" rather than "Heaton", but Dan did change his name to "Eaton" later in life.

The Monongahela Valley is located in north-central west Virginia and south western Pennsylvania in the United States. It is the path of the Monongahela River. The Mesabi Iron Range is a vast deposit of iron ore in the region collectively known as the Iron Range of Minnesota. Discovered in 1866, it is the chief deposit of iron ore in the United States. Appalachia is a region in the eastern United States that stretches from southern New York state to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. The region is rich in coal deposits.

The Jeanette Blast Furnace (nicknamed Sweet Jenny in the song) once stood along the Mahoning River at the Brier Hill Plant of the Youngstown Sheet And Tube Company (YS&T). Built in 1917-1918 and lighted on 20 Sep 1918 by its namesake, Mary Jeanette Thomas, daughter of W.A. Thomas who was the President of Brier Hill Steel. The Jeanette furnace went out of blast in September 1977 when the Brier Hill Plant was shut down. It was one of the oldest blast furnaces in the United States, and the last of its kind in Youngstown. It was demolished on 29 Jan 1997.


StahlArt Industrial Photography
© Harald Finster, Aachen, Germany
Used with permission

The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Following the Jan-Feb 1995 studio reunion with the E Street Band and the release of Greatest Hits, Bruce Springsteen writing activity increased significantly. Between March and September 1995, Springsteen wrote and recorded about two-albums worth of new songs. From the scattered comments made by Springsteen and other session participants, it would seem that over an album's worth of solo material and over an album's worth of band material were recorded during these sessions. The Ghost Of Tom Joad album consist of 7 solo tracks and 5 band tracks. The songs Bruce recorded solo may have spanned the entire session period and the band sessions appear to have been split into 2 or 3 phases during the spring and summer of 1995.

The Ghost Of Tom Joad was released on Columbia Records on 21 Nov 1995. It was produced by Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Plotkin. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1997.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce artwork]

The Ghost Of Tom Joad features 12 new Springsteen compositions and clocks at 50:16.

The Ghost Of Tom Joad track list:

  1. THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD
  2. STRAIGHT TIME
  3. HIGHWAY 29
  4. YOUNGSTOWN
  5. SINALOA COWBOYS
  6. THE LINE
  7. BALBOA PARK
  8. DRY LIGHTNING
  9. THE NEW TIMER
  10. ACROSS THE BORDER
  11. GALVESTON BAY
  12. MY BEST WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH

Other Official Releases

Besides it's release on The Ghost Of Tom Joad album, YOUNGSTOWN was released on two promotional CD singles in 1996.

Bruce Springsteen -- Youngstown

CD5 single - Columbia (SAMPCD 3307) - France, 1996

Promotional-only single, pressed in Austria for exclusive distribution in France. Comes in a cardboard sleeve.

01- YOUNGSTOWN
Bruce Springsteen -- "Youngstown - The Ghost Of Tom Joad"

CD5 single - Columbia (SAMP 720) - Australia, 1996

Comes in a plain black die-cut cardboard sleeve.

01- YOUNGSTOWN
02- THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD

Other versions of YOUNGSTOWN were also officially released:


Along with the album version, the live 09 Dec 1995 version of YOUNGSTOWN was officially released on the Columbia Records Radio Hour Part 1 & 2 radio show in 1995.

The live 29 Jun 2000 version of YOUNGSTOWN was officially released on the Live In New York City album and home video in 2001.

The live 28 Jun 2009 version of YOUNGSTOWN was officially released on the London Calling: Live In Hyde Park home video in 2010.

Live History

In preparation for The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour, YOUNGSTOWN was performed during the tour's public warm-up rehearsal show that took place on 21 Nov 1995 at State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ.

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour rehearsals performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed 75 times during the 128-date-long The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour. It was first performed at every single show during the tour's first five months, but then it started to get omitted from the setlist until it became more and more of a rarity as the tour progressed. In the 1997 part of the tour, which consisted the tour's last 27 shows, the song appeared only four times. Ten songs from the two December 1995 shows in Philadelphia, PA, including YOUNGSTOWN from 09 Dec 1995, were used on the 14 Dec 1995 edition of the Columbia Records Radio Hour radio show. See the live 09 Dec 1995 version for more details. Ten songs from the 19 Apr 1996 show in Berlin, Germany, including YOUNGSTOWN, were radio broadcast in various countries.

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour performances list]

On 14 Dec 1995, Springsteen made an off-tour appearance on The David Letterman Show where he performed YOUNGTOWN. The show was live broadcast.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 1995 off-tour performances list]

In preparation for The Reunion Tour, YOUNGSTOWN was performed during both of the tour's two public warm-up rehearsal shows that took place in March 1999 in Asbury Park. The song is also known to have been practiced during at least one of the private rehearsals that took place in March 2009 in Asbury Park prior to the tour's first leg, during the private rehearsal that took place in April 1999 in Barcelona the day before the tour kicked off in Spain, and during the private rehearsal that took place in February 2000 in University Park the day before the tour's final leg kicked off.

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Reunion Tour rehearsals performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed 132 times during the 132-date-long The Reunion Tour; that is each and every one of the tour's regular dates. The song was played in a new raging rocking arrangement that soon became one of the highlights of the tour. The 29 Jun 2000 performance of YOUNGSTOWN was officially released in 2001 on the Live In New York City album and home video. See the live 29 Jun 2000 version for more details.

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Reunion Tour performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed once during the 120-date-long The Rising Tour. The song was played in an acoustic arrangement featuring Springsteen on acoustic guitar and vocals and Soozie Tyrell on violin.

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Rising Tour performances list]

In preparation for the Vote For Change Tour, YOUNGSTOWN is known to have been practiced during two of the tour's three private rehearsals that took place from 27 to 29 Sep 2004 in Asbury Park.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Vote For Change Tour rehearsals performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed 4 times during the Vote For Change Tour, most appropriately in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Vote For Change Tour performances list]

In preparation for the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour, YOUNGSTOWN was performed during both of the tour's two public warm-up rehearsal shows that took place in April 2005 in Asbury Park. The song is also known to have been practiced during at least 3 of the private rehearsals that took place in March and April 2005 in Asbury Park prior to the tour's first leg.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour rehearsals performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed 11 times during the Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour, mainly in the tour's first couple of weeks.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Devils & Dust Solo Acoustic Tour performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed once during The Seeger Sessions Tour.

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Seeger Sessions Tour performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed 10 times during the 100-date-long Magic Tour, most of them toward the end of the tour. The song was played in a full-band rock arrangement. The 30 Aug 2008 performance was during Harley-Davidson's 105th Anniversary Celebration.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Magic Tour performances list]

Bruce Springsteen performed on four election rallies for U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008. YOUNGSTOWN was performed during two of the four rallies.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2008 election rallies performances list]

In preparation for the Working On A Dream Tour, YOUNGSTOWN is also known to have been practiced during at least one of the private rehearsals that took place in March 2009 in Asbury Park prior to the tour's first leg.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Working On A Dream Tour Tour rehearsals performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed 16 times during the 83-date-long Working On A Dream Tour. The song was played in a full-band rock arrangement. The complete 28 Jun 2009 show was released on the London Calling: Live In Hyde Park DVD in 2010. See the live 28 Jun 2009 version for more details.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Working On A Dream Tour performances list]

YOUNGSTOWN was performed on 18 Oct 2012 in Parma, OH, during the first of two election rallies for U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama on which Bruce Springsteen appeared that day. The song was played solo on acoustic guitar.

[Click here to display/hide detailed 2012 off-tour performances list]

Covers

A few artists have recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's YOUNGSTOWN, including:


Dean Sapp & The Hartford Express -- The Night The Titanic Went Down

CD - Old Train Music (OTM 1002) - USA, 1997

Kevin Bachus -- Childhood Dreams

CD - no label (no catalogue number) - Holland, 2005

This album includes six Bruce Springsteen covers.

Steve Strauss -- Just Like Love

CD - Stockfisch Records (SFR 357.4036.2) - Germany, 2005

Various artists -- Song Of America

3-CD - Split Rock / 31 Tigers (unknown catalogue number) - USA, 2007

YOUNGSTOWN is performed by Matthew Ryan.
This album also includes STREETS OF PHILADELPHIA performed by Bettye LaVette.

Blue Moon Rising -- One Lonely Shadow

CD - Lonesome Day Records (unknown catalogue number) - USA, 2008

Various artists -- For You 2: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen

2-CD - Route 66 Music (DTCDA005-2) - Italy, 2010

YOUNGSTOWN is performed by Cheap Wine on this various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album.

The Stairwell Sisters -- Youngstown

Digital single - Yodel-Ay-Hee (unknown catalogue number) - USA, 2010

This is a 1-track download-only digital single.

Show Of Hands (with Miranda Sykes) -- Covers 2

CD - Hands On Music (HMCD32) - UK, 2010

Phil Beer -- Box Set One

3-CD + DVD - Chudleigh Roots (unknown catalogue number) - UK, 2011

Contains a live recording of YOUNGSTOWN.

Available Versions

List of available versions of YOUNGSTOWN on this website:

Credits / References

Thanks riverdude2 (at Greasy Lake) for the higher resolution cover scan of the book Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass.

Some of the above info about the studio recording and the live performances is taken from Brucebase. Info for some of the above releases is taken from the Lost In The Flood website. Info for some of the above YOUNGSTOWN cover releases are taken from the Nebraska website.

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