Here in north east Ohio
Back in eighteen-o-three
James and Danny Heaton
Found the ore that was linin’ yellow creek
They built a blast furnace
Here along the shore
And they made the cannon balls
That helped the union win the war
If you did not know it is a Springsteen song, it just as well could have been the beginning of a short story or an historical novel. But in his hands it becomes a seering lamentation about the greed of men and the destruction of war. It tells the story of so many (broken) men coming back from war and having to take such work as they could get to feed a family and make a living. You can also see the workers in Factory walking their way to the mine to do a job that’d suit the devil as well, a job which gives them a living but also costs them a life of quality. And the cycle continues through the generations, with sons being sent to war and fathers (and of course mothers!) wondering about the sense in all that.
He said, “Them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do” The destruction of war is open and obvious, but there are other, more subtle forms of breaking a man.
Now sir you tell me the world’s changed once I made you rich enough, rich enough to forget my name. It is not the workers who are remembered, they are not really seen as individuals worthy of much, but only as tools to aquire wealth and power.
IIn Youngstown, in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny, I’m sinkin’ down
Here darlin’ in Youngstown
The seemingly simple chorus is a desperate call for help to a loved one, to a woman who can make it all better. Even if just for a moment, till utter despair sets in as the speaker decides that he is not even fit for heaven and declares himself ready to go to hell.
When I die I don’t want no part of heaven
I would not do heavens work well
I pray the devil comes and takes me
To stand in the fiery furnaces of hell
As I am typing this, I am listening to Out in the street – a celebration of life if I’ve ever heard one. Which just shows the incredible scope of Bruce’s work.