Rage Against the Machine’s version, with video by Ivan Zeljkovic:

Bruce Springsteen’s original version:

Background: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ghost_of_Tom_Joad_(song)

The Whitmanian ethos behind Langston Hughes’s poetry and Childish Gambino’s video can also be traced in these reworkings of the narrative of Tom Joad, the protagonist of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. These artworks are grappling with ideas of humanity and justice in the mode of what Schiller referred to as the “educating or political artist.” Notice that in all these examples the critical relation to the past, both in terms of artworks and cultural history. Just as a comparative analysis is enabled and proven fruitful in the case of Hughes and Gambino, here the analysis of Springsteen and RATM shows the tracking of ideas of injustice through two related but different contexts. This is expressed through the artistic strategies of the music, but also in the additional imagery of the video by Zeljkovic on RATM’s version. De la Rocha’s tone and emphasis in delivery, along with the overall shift from folk ballad sound to distortion-heavy guitar sounds and loud percussion, effectively shift the aesthetic experience of the themes of injustice and human suffering from one of melancholic resignation to righteous outrage.

Two Ghosts of Tom Joad
Terry Schenold
Terry Schenold believes that videogames are a vital organ of cultural change in the twenty-first century. He is a PhD candidate in English and founding member of the Critical Gaming Project at University of Washington, teaching media and game studies courses for the Comparative History of Ideas Program. He is also adjunct faculty in the Humanities and Sciences department and occasional collaborator in Design at Cornish College of the Arts. His most recurring research interests include reflective reasoning in ergodic media, digital media poetics, philosophical aesthetics, and digital game design and culture.

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