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Rage Against the Machine vs Bruce Springsteen “Ghost of Tom Joad”

Podcast Cover - Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan
Podcast Cover - Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan

“The Ghost of Tom Joad” is a song that spans American literature and music history: It was written by Bruce Springsteen for a 1995 album, but it was inspired by “The Ballad of Tom Joad” by folk musician Woodie Guthrie. And Guthrie was inspired by the 1939 book by John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

So it’s a song that embodies decades of social consciousness in America -

This song took on new meaning when the band Rage Against the Machine covered it, transforming the song’s message of “no home, no job, no peace, no rest” from the dust bowl era to the hard-driving grunge sound of early-2000s Los Angeles.

Ian Chang is Stephanie’s guest this episode - he’s a musician and DJ who was born in Hong Kong, spent time as a kid in the UK, and California - and Ian and I met at a party and bonded over our memories of Top of the Pops and Boyz 2 Men.

In this conversation Stephanie and her guest debates these two versions of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” - and use it as a jumping off point to talk about everything from Mavis to Van Halen.

Cover Story is a podcast that uncovers the covers — that is, the stories, meanings, and histories behind our most classic songs. Each episode features host and musicologist Stephanie Shonekan and one guest. Together they take one classic song, two popular renditions, and discuss: Who did it better, and why?

This season’s episodes feature The Four Tops vs. Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen vs. Rage Against the Machine, Ken Boothe vs. Bread, Otis Redding vs. Aretha Franklin, and Fantasia Barrino vs. Cynthia Erivo.

This is a show about the music we love. But the conversations uncover intimate stories about our own personal connections with the songs. Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan reconnects us with great music and the diverse perspectives, histories, and identities of the artists and the fans who enjoy that music.

Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan is produced by Janet Saidi, Ryan Famuliner, Aaron Hay, and Stephanie Shonekan. This season was edited by Aaron Hay and Ryan Famuliner.

This podcast is a collaboration between KBIA and Vox Magazine, with funding from the University of Maryland College of Arts and Humanities, MU’s College of Arts & Science, and the Missouri School of Journalism.  

You can follow the podcast and other special projects on Twitter at @VoxMag, and @KBIA, and on Instagram at @voxmagazine and @kbianews. 

“Cover Story with Stephanie Shonekan” Season 1 was produced by Janet Saidi, Kristofor Husted, Fernando Narro, Rehman Tungekar, and Ryan Famuliner, with host and producer Stephanie Shonekan. Season One was edited by Rehman Tungekar and Ryan Famuliner.

Cover Story - Season 2 Music Historypodcast
Janet Saidi is a producer and professor at KBIA and the Missouri School of Journalism.
Ryan served as the KBIA News Director from February 2011 to September 2023
Aaron worked as a full-time on-air host at KBIA from 2017 to 2022. He continues as the Managing Producer on High Turnout Wide Margins.