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Stewie Lyr Add: Death of John Henry (8) Lyr Add: DEATH OF JOHN HENRY (Uncle Dave Macon)^^ 28 Mar 00

(Traditional; as recorded by Uncle Dave Macon)

Spoken intro:
Listen, in every heart there burns a flame
For the love of glory or the dread of shame
But, oh how happy we would be if we understood
There is no safety but in doing good

People out West heard of John Henry's death
Couldn't hardly stay in bed
Monday morning on the eastbound train
Goin' where John Henry's dead
Goin' where John Henry's dead

Carried John Henry to the graveyard
They looked at him good and long
Very last words his wife said to him,
'My husband he is dead and gone
My husband he is dead and gone'

John Henry's wife wore a brand new dress
It was all trimmed in blue
Very last words she said to him,
'Honey, I bin good to you
Honey, I bin good to you'

John Henry told a shaker
'Lord, a-shake while I sing
Pullin' a hammer from my shoulder
Bound to hear her when she ring
Bound to hear her when she ring'

John Henry told his captain,
'I am a Tennessee man
Before I would see that steam drill beat me down
Die with the hammer in my hand
Die with the hammer in my hand

John Henry hammered in the mountain
Till the hammer caught on fire
Very last words I heard him say,
'A cool drink of water 'fore I die
A cool drink of water 'fore I die'

Source: Recorded by Uncle Dave Macon in April 1926 in New York. Reissued on Various Artists 'Train 45: Railroad Songs of the Early 1900s' Rounder CD 1143.

This is Uncle Dave's wonderful version of John Henry. Norm Cohen has remarked on its structure being in keeping with modern cinematic technique with Uncle Dave turning time on its head - starting with the hero's death, moving to the contest and then to the final words. The performance captures Uncle Dave at the height of his considerable powers – recordings of 'John Henry' don't come much better than this. ^^

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