100 Greatest Bruce Springsteen Songs of All Time

An expert panel of writers and artists pick Springsteen's best songs, from "Rosalita" to "Wrecking Ball"

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12. "The Ghost of Tom Joad"

The Ghost of Tom Joad, 1995

After three very personal albums in a row – Tunnel of Love, Human Touch and Lucky Town – writing "Streets of Philadelphia" helped remind Springsteen that some of his best songs reached beyond his own experience and, as he put it, "had some sort of social theme." "It was about re-finding that place in myself," said Springsteen, who had long admired John Ford's film adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. "That's really how the song 'Tom Joad' came about. I was interested in reconnecting to those things and reconnecting to the part of myself that had written about them." In writing "Joad," he was also thinking about the Republicans' assault on the social safety net: He dedicated one live version to the "Gingrich mob." He originally intended it as a rock song, but released it in a hushed acoustic arrangement. Two years later, Rage Against the Machine radically retooled it into an unlikely modern-rock hit – and Springsteen would go on to do the definitive live version with Rage guitarist Tom Morello.

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