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GUEST,John Garst Origin Of John Henry--part TWO (240* d) RE: Origin Of John Henry--part TWO 30 Dec 09


Ronald D. Cohen
*Work and Sing: A History of Occupational and Labor Union Songs in the United States*
Carquinez Press
2010

This book has a good bit about "John Henry," but does not address origins at all, even though it mentions Johnson's, Chappell's, and Nelson's books. I am disappointed that it does not mention my work, but since origins are not addressed I suppose that it is a natural omission. Cohen is a historian, it says on the back cover, who "is the author of numerous books on folk music."

I am gratified to find that he reaches the same conclusion that I have about the importance of John Henry to the labor movement, namely, that John Henry did not become a labor icon before the 1960s, when "John Henry" appeared in Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer, *Songs of Work and Freedom*, and in Pete Seeger and Bob Reiser, *Carry It On! A History in Song and Picture of the Working Men and Women of America*. "... 'John Henry' did not appear in the numerous songbooks connected with the Communist or Socialist parties in the 1930s, or even in *Hard-Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People*, compiled by Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie as the depression waned but not published until 1967" (pp 42-43).

This is contrary to Nelson's view. He interprets all muscular laborers and superheroes as John Henrys, even when there is no evidence of any such link.


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