Dead Man Walkin’ (1996) – Bruce Springsteen

Today’s featured song is Bruce Springsteen’s title track for the movie Dead Man Walkin’. Executive producers, brothers Tim and David Robbins, personally solicited a number of their favorite musicians for contributions to the project whom included other than Bruce; Johnny Cash, Eddie Vedder, Tom Waits and Patti Smith. Bruce spoke as the convict himself in his rendition of the movie’s storyline. Dead Man Walkin’ was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. This was Bruce’s second Oscar nomination; his first: Streets of Philadelphia in 1993 won for the movie Philadelphia.

This song is written about an inmate on death row, awaiting execution. The movie featured Sean Penn as the convicted convict and Susan Sarandon as the Catholic nun who tries to have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. It was a critical and commercial success.

There’s a pale horse coming
And I’m going to ride it
I’ll rise in the morning
My fate decided
I’m a dead man walking
I’m a dead man walking
In st james’ parish I was born and christened
I’ve got my story mister
Ain’t no need for you to listen
It’s just a dead man talking

Bruce sings Dead Man Walkin’ with immense conviction. He gets to the underbelly of this man’s attempt to come to terms with the responsibility of his actions. He refuses to beg for forgiveness, maintaining his “sins are all I have”. It reminds me in some sense of The Stranger by Albert Camus. The song was recorded during the The Ghost of Tom Joad sessions, but not used for the album. 17 performances were given during the Ghost of Tom Joad tour. Despite its brevity, Dead Man Walkin’ is one of my favourite acoustic songs by Bruce in his 90’s solo period.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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13 comments on “Dead Man Walkin’ (1996) – Bruce Springsteen
  1. badfinger20 (Max) says:

    I like this from the movie Matt… I must admit that I know Bruce more up til Lucky Town and Human Touch. I do though remember this song and like it.

    • I’m the same, I’m more cognisant of Bruce’ music before the dual records. But his 90’s solo songs before his brilliant The Rising record were impressionable.

      • badfinger20 (Max) says:

        I saw him a couple of years after he released The Rising in 2000….also in the mid nineties on an acoustic tour. Did you ever see him?

      • I think I mentioned I once had a chance to see him on the solo Australian tour, but I broke up with the girl who had the tickets. Bad timing lol I never saw him. I envy you. Did he meet your expectations?
        My kids love seeing him live even if it’s you tube.

      • badfinger20 (Max) says:

        Yes I remember that Matt….sorry!

        Oh yes he did…he played for 3 hours on the solo acoustic tour and around 3:30 – 4:00 with the E Street Band…I’m so happy I got to see Clarence and Federici before they passed.
        He puts everything into it.

      • Wow, you made me envious, but couldn’t happen to a better person. You must have such great memories of those concerts. Thank you for making me feel like I saw it through your eyes. You are a good egg…always

      • badfinger20 (Max) says:

        Yes I do….what made the 2000 concert even more thrilling. It was in early April and I had a beeper. Jennifer was pregnant and her parents came down to spend time with us…I saw him in early April and Bailey was born on the 20th of April….I held that beeper just in case.
        Thank you Matt

      • That’s an awesome history Max. And Bailey just being born after! It doesn’t get any better. Better than any rock song. Thank you for sharing it.

      • badfinger20 (Max) says:

        Thanks for listening!

  2. Great tune Matt. Havent thought of it for a while. I have the soundtrack. I think Steve Earl’s on it also.

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