The story of workers who were declared expendable | Reviewer: John Prestwick | 1/24/14
Springsteen was inspired to write the song after reading Dale Maharidge's 1985 book "Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass". The line "Those big boys did what Hitler couldn't do" paraphrases a line in the book, when two steel workers are looking through the rubble of a steelworks.
Youngstown is located in the "Rust Belt" region that was once the industrial heartland of America, but since the 1970s its once-powerful steel industry has collapsed. The "My Sweet Jenny" of the song actually refers to the Jeanette Blast Furnance in Youngstown, which was taken off blast in 1977 and demolished a few years after the song was released.
Blast furnaces covert iron ore into "pig iron" by blasting it with superheated air and adding carbon. This can then be converted into steel by burning off the excess carbon. "Taconite" is a type of iron ore, "coke" (carbon) is used to convert the iron oxide into iron through chemical displacement and "limestone" is also added to remove impurities. A "scarfer" is someone who torches the steel to remove imperfections, a rather dangerous job.
The song broadens in the penultimate verse to mention other regions affected by the decline of the American steel industry: the Monongahela Valley (located in the area south of Pittsburgh), the Mesabi range in Minnesota and Appalachia. This line was actually taken from the 1945 film The Valley of Decision. The lines "Now sir you tell me the world's changed / Once I made you rich enough / Rich enough to forget my name" are the protagonist addressing the owners of the steel plants.
We can appreciate our past and not be shackled by it. | Reviewer: YHCI&L Girl | 12/2/12
I work in the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, a mouthfull I know but people commonly refer to it simply as "Steel Museum" Please come and see the museum and see the real side to steel in Youngstown.
The "Jenny" he refers to in the song isn't a girl. It's the Jenny furnace, the common name for the big Jeanette Furnace that ran here.
Mr. Springsteen has managed to capture the melancholy of the area. It doesn't mean we all wallow in it night and day, but it is an underlying feeling in an area. Here nearly everyone's families came here as immigrants to work the mills and make better lives for themselves and their families, only after several generations to discover we'd put all of our eggs into one basket When it dropped, those workers, due to no fault of their own, were left without pensions, without jobs, and most importantly without identity.
A place that is my place no more | Reviewer: Enrique Heredia | 11/23/12
Have to agree with CAB, first reviewer Bill is not understanding the song at all. Is not a song for the younger generation, is a song for the previous ones, hence the irony of the name: he doesn' t belongs to this town anymore. His family smote "evil" in each war and metal in the meantime, so to speak, they had a traditio, roots and suddenly he is out of the big picture, his values are no more the right ones, he is unemployed and a relic in life, and ask for a place in Hell because in Heaven he will still feel useless...
NUMB BRAIN | Reviewer: CAB | 10/27/12
DCS, It is not moping to sing of a lost era. No one is saying it was better than this or that. Gee I am glad you have the internet. I use the internet but I don't have to like it. I like blast furnaces. Have you ever stood nest to one when it is operating? I have and it (like the one of the Heatons was water powered. The compressor that blows the air into the furnace as well as the crushers for the ore were all water powered. Awesome fail t deliver here. It is thunder and lightning in a confined space. You are empty in your soul if you can not well up any emotion when you hear a song like this. You may be correct but I feel very sorry for you and your correctness.
Lame! | Reviewer: Bill | 10/19/12
I know a lot of folks in Youngstown, and none of them feels this way. The era of steel and pottery is long past; we're over it. Furnaces built in 1803 to win the "Union" war 60 years later? We have no more to do with that than we did cutting down the forests in 1793 or introducing germs in 1603. Sure, economic evolution is tough, but it's ALWAYS happening, EVERYWHERE. No sense mopin' 'bout buggy whips (Columbus was Carriage City USA, now booming again.) Now even in Youngstown we have high-speed internet, are prouder than hell of the Buckeye State and the resilient USA. Only whiners still write whiny songs like this, typical lazy late-career repetitive Bruce..."Youngstown...Youngstown...". Haven't we heard this all before...from him!?