Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafeetta

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Lyr Add: John Henry

DigiTrad:
HENRY THE ACCOUNTANT
JOHN HENRY
JOHN HENRY 2


Related threads:
John Henry: A Folklore Study- Chappell (9)
Lyr Req: John Henry (from Dave Van Ronk) (6)
(origins) JOHN HENRY solved???? (38)
(origins) Origin Of John Henry--part TWO (239)
Lyr/Chords Req: John Henry - Sheet Music Anyone? (5)
Lyr Req: John Henry Jr (Merle Travis) (13)
John Henry's Wife (7)
Lyr Req: Little John Henry (from Lomax, McCurdy) (7)
John Henry Painting (5)
Lyr Req: John Henry Blues (Two Poor Boys) (6)
Lyr Req: John Henry (from Williamson Brothers) (16)
Chord Req: John Henry (from Hoyt Axton) (2)
(origins) Origins: John Henry (124)
Modern Day John Henry (14)
Why did John Henry hammer till he died? (59)
(origins) What did John Henry mean? (27)
Lyr Add: Death of John Henry (8)


Stilly River Sage 02 Oct 12 - 10:24 PM
Bugsy 03 Oct 12 - 05:05 AM
GUEST,999 03 Oct 12 - 05:56 AM
Stilly River Sage 03 Oct 12 - 08:59 AM
Q 03 Oct 12 - 01:12 PM
Q 03 Oct 12 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,Lighter 03 Oct 12 - 04:24 PM
Q 03 Oct 12 - 07:45 PM
GUEST,999 03 Oct 12 - 08:10 PM
GUEST,Lighter 03 Oct 12 - 08:20 PM
Joe Offer 03 Oct 12 - 11:50 PM
Q 05 Oct 12 - 01:27 PM
Q 05 Oct 12 - 01:36 PM
GUEST,Tony 05 Oct 12 - 05:56 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:





Subject: ADD Version: John Henry
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 10:24 PM

JOHN HENRY

1 John Henry tol' his cap'n
Dat a man wuz a natural man,
An' befo' he'd let dat steam drill run him down,
He'd fall dead wid a hammer in his han',
He'd fall dead wid a hammer in his han',

2 Cap'n he sez to John Henry:
" Gonna bring me a steam drill 'round;
Take that steel drill out on the job,
Gonna whop that steel on down,
Gonna whop that steel on down."

3 John Henry sez to his cap'n:
"Send me a twelve-poun' hammer aroun',
A twelve-poun' hammer wid a fo' -foot handle,
An' I beat yo' steam drill down,
An' I beat yo' steam drill down."

4 John Henry sez to his shaker:
" Niggah, why don' yo' sing?
I'm throwin' twelve poun' from my hips on
down,
Jes' lissen to de col' steel ring,
Jes' lissen to de col' steel ring! "

5 John Henry went down de railroad
Wid a twelve-poun' hammer by his side,
He walked down de track but he didn' come
back,
'Cause he laid down his hammer an' he died,
'Cause he laid down his hammer an' he died.

6 John Henry hammered in de mountains,
De mountains wuz so high.
De las' words I heard de pore boy say:
" Gimme a cool drink o' watah fo' I die,
Gimme a cool drink o' watah fo' die! "

7 John Henry had a little baby,
Hel' him in de palm of his han',
De las' words I heard de pore boy say:
" Son, yo're gonna be a steel-drivin' man,
Son, yo're gonna be a steel-drivin' man!

8 John Henry had a 'ooman,
De dress she wo' wuz blue.
De las' words I heard de pore gal say:
" John Henry, I ben true to yo',
John Henry, I ben true to yo'."

9 John Henry had a li'l 'ooman,
De dress she wo' wuz brown.
De las' words I heard de pore gal say:
" I'm goin' w'eah mah man went down,
I'm goin' w'eah mah man went down! "

10 John Henry had anothah 'ooman,
De dress she wo' wuz red.
De las' words I heard de pore gal say:
" I'm goin' w'eah mah man drapt daid,
I'm goin' w'eah mah man drapt daid! "

11 John Henry had a li'l 'ooman,
Her name wuz Polly Ann.
On de day John Henry he drap daid
Polly Ann hammered steel like a man,
Polly Ann hammered steel like a man.

12 W'eah did yo' git dat dress!
W'eah did you git dose shoes so fine?
Got dat dress fm off a railroad man,
An' shoes f'm a driver in a mine,
An' shoes f'm a driver in a mine.


Source: The American Songbag, by Carl Sandburg, 1927, pp 24-5.

I couldn't find any online performances of the Sandburg version of this song.

(Scanned OCR then corrected. PDF available.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: Bugsy
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 05:05 AM

Not word for word, a few verses omitted and a few word changes, but the jist is there.

Big Bill Broonzy, John Henry



Cheers

Bugsy


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: GUEST,999
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 05:56 AM

SRS: the following site posts those lyrics and provides sheet music for the song, "John Henry" that you posted. From the site below,


'JOHN HENRY
In southern work camp gangs, John Henry is the strong man, or the ridiculous man, or anyhow the man worth talking about, having a myth character somewhat like that of Paul Bunyan in work gangs of the Big Woods of the North. He is related to John Hardy, as balladry goes, but wears brighter bandannas. The harmonization is by Thorvald Otterstrom: it is massive in its pounding and evokes the atmosphere in which the powerful titan, John Henry, "does his stuff."'

http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/dramas-and-portraits.aspx


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 08:59 AM

When you're posting lyrics like this, put up intentionally to add to the Mudcat record Carl Sandburg's version of the song from a published book, do you also want his commentary about it? I left it out on this one because I didn't see it included in the other Sandburg song versions that were posted (most by Joe Offer, I think).

I'm just getting my feet wet with this one, learning the protocols of posting lyrics via "Lyr Add:" or in discussion threads (Origins). You may want to remove this query as someone does the tidying that I'm guessing happens as these are reviewed.

SRS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: Q
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 01:12 PM

When I saw this thread, I thought "oh, no, not another John Henry thread?" But a quick look through the threads showed that very few versions were posted in Mudcat- Cox, Lomax, Macon were posted and properly cited as to source (the first two in DT Lyrics). Others were cited, but not posted in their entirety).

I can't answer for Joe. Personally, I like to see the comments to a version.

The Sandburg version is in the excellent Bluegrass Messenger site, but that does not preclude posting in mudcat.

Whatever you and Joe decide, a thread devoted to versions would be welcomed by me; the others are largely discussion and speculation.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: Q
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 01:25 PM

Three performance versions (complete) are given in separate threads; one or two others have lyrics that so far are only partialy worked out.
Little John Henry, a separate song, Lomax version, had a separate thread.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 04:24 PM

Sandburg says,

"In Southern work camps, John Henry is the strong man, or the ridiculous man, or any how the man worth talking about, having a myth character somewhat like that of Paul Bunyan in work gangs of the Big Woods of the North. He is related to John Hardy, as balladry goes, but with brighter bandannas. The harmonization is by Thorvald Otterstrom: it is massive in its pounding and evokes the atmosphere in which the powerful titan, John Henry, 'does his stuff.'"

I don't know if Sandburg included "John Henry" in his performances, but if he did it would have been the first time that most of his audience had ever heard of it.

The "ridiculous man" business is hard to explain, unless Sandburg is referring to some unprinted bawdy parody of the song or to some humorous folk tale.

Unfortunately Sandburg doesn't print any version of "John Hardy," who was also a steeldriver in some versions.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: Q
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 07:45 PM

Several good versions of John Hardy are in the article by J. H. Cox, "John Hardy," Jour American Folklore, 1919, vol. 32, pp. 505-520, versions posted at length by Jim Dixon in thread 52732"
John Hardy

Three of the versions point to John Hardy as the "steel driving man."
Cox set out the case for John Hardy being John Henry; disputed in threads by John Garst (4018 and others).
John Henry

The Blue Grass Messengers site has the John Hardy versions and much information on these songs.

Vance Randolph, "Ozark Folk Songs, vol. 2, has a version that has not been posted here.

Mudcat has more versions of John Hardy than of John Henry; any new ones should be posted in the John Hardy threads.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: GUEST,999
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 08:10 PM

http://www.bobdylanroots.com/jhardy.html

Some information on the Henry/Hardy songs at that site.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: ADD Version: John Henry
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 08:20 PM

Archie Perry, of Jenkins, Ky., sang the following on Apr. 3, 1975, in Knoxville, Tenn. Archie was a retired coal miner, rather frail, who was in town for a minor folk festival. I'd say he was about 70, though he looked and sounded older, partly because of some shortness of breath. He had his guitar with him and could play it with more enthusiasm than musicianship.

The tune he used for "John Henry" was quite conventional. I recorded about fifteen of his songs on my cassette recorder, including "A Wild and Reckless Hobo," "Let's All Go Down to the River," "Old-Time Religion," Merle Haggard's "Branded Man," and an excellent version of "Pretty Polly." In return, I wrote out "Jesse James" for him. He said he'd never had a chance to learn it. I hope he finally did.

The dashes represent significant pauses.
>
JOHN HENRY

John Henry was -- a little bitty boy,
Settin' on his papa's knee.
Picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel,
Said, Hammer's gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord,
Hammer's gon' be the death of me.

John Henry -- had a sweet little woman,
Her name was Pol--ly Ann.
John Henry took sick and he had to go to bed,
Polly drove steel like a man, Lord, Lord,
Polly drove steel like a man.

Pick hit out now ! [One-stanza guitar break]

John Henry tol' his shaker,
Shaker you better pray.
If I was to miss this six foot a steel,
Tomorrow be your buryin' day, Lord, Lord,
Tomorrow be your buryin' day.

John Henry told his captain,
You know I'm a Tennessee man.
Before I let that steam drill -- beat me down,
I'll die with the hammer in my hand, Lord,Lord,
I'll die with the hammer in in my hand.

[One-stanza guitar break]

John Henry's captain said to John Henry,
I b'lieve this tunnel's sinkin' in.
John Henry said to his captain,
It's only my hammer suckin' wind, Lord, Lord,
Only my hammer suckin' wind.

John Henry went up on the mountain top,
He looked down the other side.
Mountain was so tall, John Henry was so small,
He laid down his hammer and he cried, Lord, Lord,
He laid down his hammer and he cried.

When he finished his song, Perry said, "John Henry, that's a fact, buddy. I was talkin' to a man in Bristol. I was talkin' to a guy thar, Roy McMullins, he said he was talkin' to an old man thar, an _old_ man, that _knowed_ John Henry. Said he used a hammer in each hand. Said that's the truth. Used a hammer in each hand, beat that steam drill down. Said this old man said he knowed him, yes sir, this old man _knowed_ him, buddy, and seen him _many_ times. And he used a hammer in each hand. Beat that _steam_ drill down. Takes a much of a man to do it, too. You damn right, it does. Yep. That's a true song."

Archie believed that this was one of the first songs he'd learned, probably during the 1920s. Of most everything he sang, he'd say, "That song is true." But "John Henry" was the only one that got him talking with such animation.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Oct 12 - 11:50 PM

SRS, I usually post the background notes I find in songbooks if they're pertinent. I've often found that Sandburg's notes have no particular value, but I do post his notes if he has something to say about the song.

-Joe-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: Q
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 01:27 PM

Newman I. White was one of the first collectors of "John Henry," publishing fragments coll. 1915-1916 from manuscripts. From his notes:

"The following facts seem to be fairly clear:
1. John Hardy and John Henry were both steel-driving men, probably Negroes, in West Virginia.
2. John Hardy was a gambler, roué, and murderer, and was executred for murder.
3. John Henry had no vicious traits, and died as a result of trying to beat a steam drill.
4. John Henry songs are more commonly sung and have spread farther from West Virginia.
"From these facts I draw the tentative conclusions that the John Hardy and John Henry songs both arose in West Virginia, that they have been somewhat coalesced in that state, but are distinctly different songs, and that John Henry is probably the older of the two."
----
"Among the Negroes, John Hardy does not seem to be known.... John Henry seems to have given rise to two types of song..... both are work songs, but the first is purely narrative, while the second is a hammer song....."

The fragments:
A
Reported from Auburn, AL, MS. of B. A. Wooten...., Marengo Co.
When John Henry was a baby
Sittin' on 'is mother's knee,
He said O the Colorado Mountains
Will be the death of me.
B
MS. of W. M. Little. as heard in Franklin Co., NE Georgia, "sung in mines by Negroes."
When John Henry wuz er baby,
You could hold him in the palm of yer hand.
All de neighbors said John Henry would neber be er man.
His father took him on his knee and said:
"John Henry, you goin' to be er steel-drivin' man."
When Jouh Henry got to be er man
He married little woman, her name was Polly Ann.
John Henry he got sick and had to go home,
Polly Ann drove steel like er steel-drivin' man.

The verse about John Henry taking sick and Polly driving steel like a man also coll. in Alabama, MS. of J. C. Hay.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: Q
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 01:36 PM

The White excerpts from
Newman I. White, 1928, "American Negro Folk-Songs," Harvard Univ. Press, pp. 189-191.

John Henry was collected early from East Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina; reported in 1905-1914.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr Add: John Henry
From: GUEST,Tony
Date: 05 Oct 12 - 05:56 PM

The versions of this song in which John Henry dies are management's view. Labor's view is that he won the contest easily but was replaced by the steam drill anyway.

It's highly unlikely that a man who hammered a steel rod all day long for a living would die of exhaustion or heart failure during a hammering contest which he won 16 to 9.

The danger in steel-driving is to the shaker, who holds the steel rod in position, shaking it as needed to get it into the exact right spot so the hammer lands on it rather than on himself. He's the one who said that he'd be willing to die, with a steel rod in his hand, rather than let any steam drill beat him down.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 30 October 11:41 AM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.