The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4018   Message #277984
Posted By: GUEST,Jennifer
15-Aug-00 - 02:23 AM
Thread Name: Origins: John Henry
Subject: RE: The origins of john Henry
Being a musicologist with the maiden name of Henry, this is a subject which has interested me for years. I know for a fact the origins of my cousin Johnny Henry who is a rock musician & D J in Tulsa, OK. However, facts about the John Henry of song fame continue to be elusive and probably will be for another 100 years. While often confused with John Hardy the murder, I have found the John henry of the song fame in dozens of versions. They have him driving steel on the Air Line, the K. C., the Frisco, (on which my grandfather worked in Okla-he knew of no such John Henry), the C. & O. Railroads; they call his woman Lucy, Delia Ann, Polly Ann, Sally Ann; he can be found "sittin' on his pappy's knee" or holding his little son "in de palm of his han'." Either a 7 or 9 pound hammer is the death of him. The songs all seem to agree that John Henry battled with the steam drill which threatened to "beat him down"; he toiled mighitly from dawn to sunset; beat the machine as the sun went down, and "died wid a hammer in his han'." I believe there may have been a John Henry who was a railroad worker, however I believe most of the song is fiction and a true folk song ballad-about the life & times of the black railroad worker circa late 1800's.