September 22, 2023
Nearly 30 years ago, Bruce Springsteen returned to his grammar school in New Jersey to play a concert for 1,300 Freehold residents.
One of the 25 songs he performed that night, "My Hometown," is included on the live compilation that Springsteen released Friday. The album, "The Live Series: Songs of New Jersey," includes 20 recordings from shows mostly played in North Jersey and New York City, and features songs that reference New Jersey and its atmosphere. It is the latest in a series of live compilations the Boss has released in recent years.
On Nov. 8, 1996, Springsteen brought "The Ghost of Tom Joad" tour to St. Rose Lima Catholic School, which he attended through eighth grade. The $30 show, held in the gymnasium, was restricted to Freehold residents and proceeds were donated to St. Rose of Lima's Hispanic community center.
"You had to be from Freehold Borough – not the township, only the borough – to buy a ticket, so the line at St. Rose that day was like a family reunion," Freehold resident Kevin Coyne told the Asbury Park Press in 2016. "I've always been proud to be from the borough – I'm a fifth-generation native – but never more so than that day, and never did my address confer such benefits as it did that day."
"My Hometown" was one of the last songs played that night. The song, from the 1984 album "Born in the U.S.A.," is an ode to Springsteen's hometown, Freehold. It describes the town's changing landscapes, including racial and economic tensions, through the eyes of a boy and his father.
During the show, Springsteen dedicated his performance of the "The Ghost of Tom Joad" to his former teacher, Sister Charles Marie. He credited her with teaching him to be kind.
The show was full of some of his most notable nostalgia-filled tracks about his upbringing, but Springsteen saved "Freehold" for last. The song notates the various firsts The Boss experienced in Freehold, including falling in love with the guitar, his first beer and his first kiss.
He told the crowd, "I'm only going to sing this song once in my life. It's going to be right now," according to the Asbury Park Press, but he has played it several times since.
The live compilation he released Friday, which includes performances of "Born to Run," "Jersey Girl" and "Atlantic City," can be streamed on Apple Music and Spotify.