Elizabeth Ricketson
3 min readMar 9, 2021


Steinbeck, Guthrie, Springsteen… “giving voice to the unheard.” Let’s get this done…

Headed to Massachusetts last week to spend some time with my daughter and her family. The relatively new parents had a busy work week scheduled. We safely made a plan. A COVID-19 cautious plan. Mentally I am well aware that there is no 100% plan despite best practices. The near constant virus anxiety that oppressively sits on my chest is a reminder of that very fact. To have received the vaccine yesterday would have been just perfect.

A long but easy three hour drive south very early last Tuesday morning was underway. The trip had become fairly time predictable as the days of traffic and unexpected back-ups are memories only. I can’t say I miss the traffic, but I do miss the life it represented. Happy yet nervous to be out of my house and off the street for at least a couple of days albeit just going from one house to another. A welcome change it was. The early morning sky told the story of a new day on the horizon. The beautiful New England landscape became enhanced as music filled the cabin of my car. The E Street Band Sirius channel was on. It is almost always on. It is always on. Springsteen was the perfect traveling companion as I navigated the many miles to my Boston destination. Listening to Springsteen felt as familiar as the vintage sweater I was wearing.

Not quite an hour into my drive I began to listen to the E Street station DJ’s as they discussed the immense influence of Woodie Guthrie on Bruce Springsteen’s music. In particular, the song “The Ghost of Tom Joad” written by Springsteen in the mid 1990’s which was a nod to Woody Guthrie’s “The Ballad of Tom Joad” which was written somewhere about 1940. The character Tom Joad was John Steinbeck’s hero in his 1939 classic novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” The common thread of theme they all mutually shared and expressed so poignantly centered around the Great Depression and their concerns regarding the unheard voices of our country:

“Springsteen identified with 1930s-style social activism, and sought to give voice to the invisible and unheard, the destitute and the disenfranchised.”[3] (Wikipedia)

I couldn’t help but think about the nearly fifty years between Guthrie’s and Springsteen’s songs and how it is now 2021 and how we have sadly and tragically yet to get it right. “Giving voice to the unheard” is still a tremendous struggle in our country…

Spending time with my six-month-old granddaughter has everything to do with joy and being solely in the moment. The pandemic has stolen so many of our moments. The television was off and the music on. She immediately responded to the sound of music as it is already a vital part of her daily routine. My son in law and I have had many great conversations about the music of the 60’s and 70’s while my daughter shares some of her favorite contemporary artists. They have handily introduced their daughter to the exquisite world of music.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” — Plato

A dance party with my 6-month-old granddaughter in the center of their living room was nothing short of blissful. We swayed as I sang along to Pure Prairie League’s “Amie” which is always a crowd pleaser and delighted my granddaughter as her giggles confirmed. I was grateful that the walls couldn’t talk as my singing ability is suspect at best. Next up Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” She is currently unknowing about the significance of Marvin Gaye’s lyrics and simply enjoying the rhythm of the music and our day. There will be a time when I hope to teach her about the importance of his words and those of John Steinbeck, Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen and the many others I have been inspired by over my many years. My hope and want is that their words will not be in vain but instead realized…

“If you walk across my camera I will flash the world your story.” Woody Guthrie



Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts.