25 years ago, Bruce Springsteen releases ‘Youngstown’ and stops by the city

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With just an acoustic guitar and some soft light, he sang what would become the city's ballad

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Saturday marks a major anniversary for Bruce Springsteen fans around Youngstown. It’s 25 years since he released the song titled “Youngstown.” Shortly after, Springsteen played here and toured some of our industrial history.

Jan. 12, 1996. Fifty-four days after releasing his song “Youngstown,” Springsteen introduces it to a sold-out Stambaugh Auditorium.

“You know, they built the buildings that we live in, the bridges that we cross. They gave their sons and their daughters to the wars that were fought and who were later deemed expendable.”

Then, with just an acoustic guitar and some soft light, he sang what would become the city’s ballad with a voice that defined a generation.

“Them smokestacks reaching like the arms of God into a beautiful sky of soot and clay. In Youngtown, in Youngstown.”

“He was bringing himself to us to know that it was OK. That we could be proud of who we were,” said “Viking” Jim Allgren.

Allgren was at the concert, and the next day, while working at Youngstown’s Steel Museum, gave Springsteen a tour. Afterward, Springsteen gave an interview.

“I only know how to do one thing. What if somebody came up and told me, after 30 or 40 years, that what I did was no longer useful?” Springsteen said during that interview.

“It was like I was walking a seventh grader through the joint. He was very attentive and he was very interested. I could really tell that he actually cared about us,” Allgren said.

“My sweet Jenny I’m sinking down, here darling, in Youngstown.”

In the song, Springsteen refers to sweet Jenny, the Jeanette blast furnace that once graced Brier Hill, and that Springsteen walked around during his visit with photographer Michael Williamson and author Dale Maharidge, whose book “Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass” is where Springsteen got the idea for the “Youngstown” song.

“Bruce captured in about 250 words what took me a whole book to say,” Maharidge said.

Springsteen walked about a mile through ankle-deep snow.

“But I told Bruce, I said Bruce, if they catch us, they’ll probably arrest us, and he said let’s go,” Maharidge said.

They then spent about 90 minutes hanging around the Jeanette furnace.

“He was enraptured. We split up and I almost hate to say this, it sounds kind of weird, religious. I had my own demons, Bruce had his demons. We walked around then we convened at the base of the blast furnace and talked politics for about a half-hour,” Maharidge said.

Then Springsteen left, leaving behind his legacy in the form of a song.

“My sweet Jenny I’m sinking down, here darling, in Youngstown.”

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