Compare and Contrast #1 – The Ghost of Tom Joad

Since i’ve been on the road, my dreams have become more and more vivid, and almost always in some way related to travel. Towards the end of last night’s dream, during which I dreamt about catching a train from Kansas City to Denver, I kept hearing the song “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” as covered by Junip (Jose Gonzalez‘s amazing group). When I finally got on my computer, I had to listen to it and when I went to YouTube to share the song, I realized it was a cover of a Rage Against the Machine Song. Digging further still, I found that RATM weren’t even the original creators, but it was in fact a Bruce Springsteen original. Funny too, because yesterday I was having a conversation with my friend Toby/Adam about how I had never really given the Boss much of a chance and how the only songs I knew of his were “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Secret Garden” (thanks to Jerry Maguire). Anyway, the whole thing led me into this spiraling thought process about originals versus covers. And so was born the idea for Compare and Contrast!

Now I’ve known plenty of people to be of the mindset that an original song is always better than any remake, but other times i’ll hear people say the remake is way better. Today’s song, the first challenge, will be The Ghost of Tom Joad, which in my opinion is just an amazing song that I can’t exactly pick a winner for yet as every musician that has touched it has brought something very different to its essence. Here are all three versions for your listening pleasure:

Bruce Springsteen

Rage Against The Machine


So who would you say is the big winner of all three? Cast your votes now and give me some reasons why this particular rendition is your favorite!


5 responses

  1. I prefer the Bruce version, but Junip gets my vote for the more interesting cover; I dig it. A good cover should walk the line between faithfulness to the original and adding your own touch to it (see: Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower”).

    The RATM version just sounds like every RATM song I’ve ever heard.

  2. Rage Against the Machine do some of the best covers you can find, in my opinion, because they truly make the song theirs. I’ve always preferred covers that sound as little as possible like the original because otherwise what’s the point? Their Ghost of Tom Joad cover is one of the more powerful covers of any song I’ve ever heard just because of the introduction of dynamics to such a poignant folk song (folk being traditionally without dynamics).

    Check this one out:

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