Woody Guthrie - VIGILANTE MAN

First performance: 19/05/1988


Coverinfo

1988-02-00 - EXPO THEATER, FORT MONMOUTH, NJ
 
I AIN'T GOT NO HOME / I AIN'T GOT NO HOME / VIGILANTE MAN / VIGILANTE MAN

Recording (in a "live" rehearsal setting), as well as filming (by director Jim Brown) of two Woody Guthrie-penned songs for the upcoming charity album and PBS film documentary A Vision Shared: Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly. All four performances (above) were audio recorded. The second version of each song (above) was filmed on the stage of the Expo Theater – it is unclear if the first version of each song was filmed (they have never circulated). The audio of the first version of each of the two songs (above) was first released on August 24, 1988 on the commercially available A Vision Shared charity album. The audio of the second version of each of the two songs (above) was released in very limited quantity in late September 1988 on a rare, U.S.A.-only, promotional-only soundtrack album for the forthcoming film documentary. That documentary had its world debut airing on October 3, 1988 on the U.S.A.'s national PBS TV network and was later made commercially available in several video formats. Note: this audio/video shoot may have taken place over two days, not one. The song was played in a slow full-band arrangement, featuring Bruce Springsteen on electric guitar and vocals, Nils Lofgren on acoustic guitar, Roy Bittan on piano, Garry Tallent on bass guitar, Max Weinberg on drum, and Patti Scialfa on background vocals. This performance was later released on the A Vision Shared - A Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly home video. The exact recording date is unknown but it most probably took place around mid-February 1988. 
  
 
Bruce performed the song 5 times live:
 
Premiere of "Vigilante Man". Soundcheck reported to include the filming of the Folkways promo versions of "Vigilante Man" and "I Ain't Got No Home"
 
1988-05-22 - MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK CITY

1988-05-23 - MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK CITY

Final U.S. show of the tour.
 
1988-06-21 - VILLA PARK, BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND
fourth and final "Vigilante Man" of the tour. 
 
 
 
2012-03-12 - CONVENTION HALL, ASBURY PARK
Private rehearsals for the tour come to a close with an afternoon in Asbury Park's Convention Hall. Songs rehearsed include Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man", last played in concert during the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour in 1988.
 

Songinfo

Vigilante man is a song by Woody Guthrie, recorded and released in 1940 as one of his Dust Bowl Ballads. The song is about the hired thugs ("vigilantes") who would violently chase away migrants to California trying to escape the Dust Bowl, a man-made ecological catastrophe in the American Great Plains during the 1930s. One verse refers to the murder of Preacher (Jim) Casy, a central figure in John Steinbecks' 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath. The tune was taken from "Sad and Lonesome Day", a song made popular by The Carter Family; which itself borrows from "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" by Blind Lemon Jefferson.
 
 
 

Other cover versions

Bruce on the artist

During the the keynote speech 
 
" I covered a lot of ground, but there was still something missing. So, somewhere in my late twenties I picked up Joe Klein’s "Woody Guthrie, A Life." And as I read that book, a world of possibilities that predated Dylan’s, that had inspired him, and lead to some of his greatest work, opened up for me. Woody’s gaze was – it was set on today’s hard times. But also, somewhere over the horizon, there was something. Woody’s world was a world where fatalism was tempered by a practical idealism. It was a world where speaking truth to power wasn’t futile, whatever its outcome. Why do we continue to talk about Woody so many years on, never had a hit, never went platinum, never played in an arena, never got his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone. But he’s a ghost in the machine – big, big ghost in the machine. And I believe it’s because Woody’s songs, his body of work, tried to answer Hank Williams’ question: why your bucket has a whole in it. And that’s a question that’s eaten at me for a long time. So, in my early 30s, his voice spoke to me very, very deeply. And we began to cover “This Land is Your Land” in concert. And I knew I was never gonna be Woody Guthrie. I liked Elvis, and I liked the Pink Cadillac too much. I like the simplicity, and the tossed–off temporary feeling of pop hits. I liked big, fucking noise. And in my own way, I like the luxuries and the comforts of being a star. I had already gone a long way down a pretty different road. So four years ago, I found myself in an unusual situation. It was a cold winter day, and I was standing alongside of Pete Seeger, and it was 25 degrees. Pete had come to Washington. Pete carries a banjo everywhere he goes – the subway, the bus – and comes out in his shirt. I said, “Man, Pete, put on a jacket, man, it’s freezing out here.” He’s ninety years old, a living embodiment of Woody’s legacy. And there were several hundred thousand of our fellow citizens in front of us. We had the Lincoln Memorial behind us and a newly–elected president to our right. And we were going to sing, “This Land is Your Land” in front of all these Americans. And Pete insisted, “We have to sing all the verses. We have to sing all the verses, man. You can’t leave any of them out.” I said, I don’t know, Pete, there’s only – we had, like, a crowd of six year old school kids behind us. He says, “No, we’re all gonna sing all the verses – all the verses. And, so we got to it."
 
A Vision Shared - A Tribute To Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly is a various artists benefit documentary and home video in support of Folkways Records and the Woody Guthrie Archives. Narrated by Robbie Robertson, it features interviews with and performances by leading folk, rock, and country recording artists including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and others. The documentary premiered on Showtime on 17 Sep 1988 and was released as a home video by Columbia Records later that year. It was originally issued on VHS and Laserdisc and in October 2000 it was reissued on DVD
 
This land is your land recorded in 2009. It was used in the 2009 documentary The People Speak, closing the film before the credits roll. The documentary was released on home video the following year. Released on 09 Feb 2010. Bruce Springsteen was inspired by the works of historian and activist Howard Zinn. In an interview published in the 15 Nov 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, he told Joe Levy: "Howard Zinn's A People's History Of The United States had an enormous impact on me. It set me down in a place that I recognized and felt I had a claim to. It made me feel that I was a player in this moment in history, as we all are, and that this moment in history was mine, somehow, to do with whatever I could. It gave me a sense of myself in the context of this huge American experience and empowered me to feel that in my small way, I had something to say, I could do something. It made me feel a part of history, and gave me life as a participant." The People Speak is a 2009 documentary narrated by historian Howard Zinn and is based on his books A People's History Of The United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices Of A People's History Of The United States. It premiered on History on 13 Dec 2009. The film weaves archival footage and interviews with musical performances and dramatic readings of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans throughout the country's history. Most of the movie was shot on location in front of a live audiences at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston, MA, in January 2008 and at the Malibu Performing Arts Center in Malibu, CA, in 2008. Other performances from around the country filmed in 2008 and 2009 were also used. For the film, Bruce Springsteen recorded two new solo acoustic renditions (guitar and harmonica) of The ghost of Tom Joad and Woody Guthrie's This land is your land.
The performances were filmed live at his home studio in New Jersey probably around early 2009. Interestingly, promotional footage for The People Speak shows that Howard Zinn was present at Springsteen's home when the two songs were recorded. This land is your land  was used in the documentary, closing the film before the credits roll, while The ghost of Tom Joad was posted on Bruce Springsteen's official website in January 2010. Later in 2009 a new version of The ghost of Tom Joad was recorded (in the same arrangement) and released exclusively on The People Speak soundtrack album.

 
 
The influence of Guthrie on Bruce is been well-documented.  He covered his signature song "This Land Is Your Land" all throughout the 1980s, and was directly inspired to record The Ghost of Tom Joad by Guthrie's work, especially "Tom Joad Blues." "There was always some spiritual center amid Woody's songs," Springsteen said in 1996. "He always projected a sense of good times in the face of it all. He always got you thinking about the next guy, he took you out of yourself. I guess his idea was salvation isn't individual. Maybe we don't rise and fall on our own." (source)
 
The ghost of Tom Joad was first of all inspired by John Ford's 1940 film adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1939 classic novel The Grapes Of Wrath. The references at the end of The Ghost Of Tom Joad album's credits list some of the source materials, including "John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath, written by Nunnally Johnson, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, a Twentieth Century-Fox film." Springsteen's song, however, is set in the 80's or 90's, with contemporary times being likened to Dust Bowl images. The song also takes inspiration from Woody Guthrie's 1940 song Tom Joad, which explores the novel's protagonist's life. In 1995, Springsteen got in touch with John Steinbeck's widow Elaine Steinbeck to ask permission to use the name of the character from The Grapes of Wrath.

In 2006 he recorded an acoustic version as a duet with Pete Seeger.
 
 
  

Lyrics

Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
I been hearin' his name all over the land.
Well, what is a vigilante man?
Tell me, what is a vigilante man?
Has he got a gun and a club in his hand?
Is that is a vigilante man?
Rainy night down in the engine house,
Sleepin' just as still as a mouse,
Man come along an' he chased us out in the rain.
Was that a vigilante man?
Stormy days we passed the time away,
Sleepin' in some good warm place.
Man come along an' we give him a little race.
Was that a vigilante man?
Preacher Casey was just a workin' man,
And he said, "Unite all you working men."
Killed him in the river some strange man.
Was that a vigilante man?
Oh, why does a vigilante man,
Why does a vigilante man
Carry that sawed-off shot-gun in his hand?
Would he shoot his brother and sister down?
I rambled 'round from town to town,
I rambled 'round from town to town,
And they herded us around like a wild herd of cattle.
Was that the vigilante men?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
Have you seen that vigilante man?
I've heard his name all over this land.