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John Henry

This song is by Furry Lewis and appears on the compilation Lonesome Whistle: An Anthology of American Railroad Song (2012).

John Henry was a little baby boy, settin' at home on his mother's knee
Cryin', "That Big Bend tunnel on that YMV, it's gon' be the death of me, 'fore I die
Lord, it's gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord, says it's gon'"

When John Henry hammered in the mountain till the head of his hammer caught fire
He cried, "Y'all just pick 'em up and let 'em down again
Just give me one cool drink of water 'fore I die, Lord, Lord
Just give me one cool drink of water."

Spoken: You know, one time John Henry had a job to do, one time, Red
He's the best at it, people say that awful day will surely come, that's funny
How it would make it


Said I'm goin' where John Henry fell dead

When the women in the West heard of John Henry's death, they couldn't sleep at home in their beds
Some was dressed in white, some was dressed in red, said
"Take me where John Henry fell dead, baby, please take me (guitar finishes line)
I'm goin' where John Henry fell dead, baby", he said, "Lord knows I'm goin' where
John Henry fell dead, dead, I'm goin' where John Henry" (guitar finishes line)

John Henry told his captain one day, "You can give me my time
I can make more money on that C & O than I can on that IC line, Lord knows, than I can"

Spoken: You know, one time John Henry had a piker, he had to hold a little piece of steel
Just 'bout that tall, he told his piker to hold that steel, he said
What's gonna happen?", Booker, he says, "I'm goin' down, I'm gonna drive some steel today."
I'm goin' where John Henry sat all dead


John Henry told his piker, "I 'clare you better pray
If I miss this steel with this 10 pound mawl, tomorrow gon' be your buryin' day, goddamn, haha

Recorded:

September 22, 1929; Memphis, TN

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