My wife and I were on one of our periodic weekend road trips through Pennsylvania. In the hotel, I turned on the TV, which was set to the local public broadcasting network. The program was Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration concert from Madison Square Garden. Bruce Springsteen was on the stage. He was talking about Pete's legacy in the labor movement and civil rights movement and about singing "This Land Is Your Land," even the radical verses, alongside Pete at Obama's inaguration.
I remember that day on the National Mall. I remember thinking how profound it was that those verses were being sung in such a huge venue, by a man who was once blacklisted for his labor activism, at the inauguration of America's first black president. It felt like victory on so many levels, and it was.
Back on the TV, Springsteen called Tom Morello on to the stage to sing the next song with him. The song was "The Ghost of Tom Joad," based on a character from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, a book that played an important role in my own political maturation. Tom walked out wearing a black hat with the emblem of the Industrial Workers of the World, the "Wobblies," who were organizing interracial unions (in the Deep South!) before anyone else, about 50 years before the Civil Rights Act.
So, to review: Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello, public broadcasting, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, Obama's inauguration, The Grapes of Wrath, and the IWW. I suppose you could combine even more of my favorite things, but it would involve Jesus juggling.
Here's Springsteen talking about Pete Seeger...
And here's "The Ghost of Tom Joad"
This video is actually from a different concert, but it was the best I
could find. They did an acoustic version at Pete Seeger's birthday.