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​The Day John Henry Died

This song is by Drive-By Truckers and appears on the album The Dirty South (2004).

I watched the rain, it settled in
We disappeared for days again
Most of us were staying in
Lazy like the sky
The letters flew across the wire
Filtered through a million liars
The whole world smelled like burning tires
The day John Henry died

We knew about that big machine
That ran on human hope and steam
Bets on John were far between
And mostly on the side
We heard he put up quite a fight
His hands and feet turned snowy white
That hammer rang out through the night
The day John Henry died

When John Henry was a little bitty baby
Nobody ever taught him how to read
But he knew the perfect way to hold a hammer
Was the way the railroad baron held the deed

It didn't matter if he won
If he lived, or if he'd run
They changed the way his job was done
Labor costs were high
That new machine was cheap as hell
And only John would work as well
So they left him laying where he fell
The day John Henry died

John Henry was a steel-driving bastard
But John Henry was a bastard just the same
And an engine never thinks about his daddy
And an engine never needs to write its name

So pack your bags, we're headed west
L.A. ain't the place to rest
You'll need some sleep to pass the test
Get some on the flight
Say your prayers John Henry Ford
'Cause we don't need your work no more
You should have known the final score
The day John Henry died
The day John Henry died