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Lyr Req: John Henry (from Williamson Brothers)

DigiTrad:
HENRY THE ACCOUNTANT
JOHN HENRY
JOHN HENRY 2


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Roberto 23 Dec 07 - 11:38 AM
Amos 23 Dec 07 - 11:39 AM
Roberto 23 Dec 07 - 12:00 PM
12-stringer 23 Dec 07 - 02:10 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 23 Dec 07 - 02:20 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 23 Dec 07 - 02:30 PM
Roberto 25 Dec 07 - 03:19 AM
Jim Dixon 27 Dec 07 - 07:36 AM
Roberto 27 Dec 07 - 08:57 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 27 Dec 07 - 11:19 AM
GUEST,Roberto 28 Dec 07 - 06:51 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 28 Dec 07 - 03:20 PM
Stewie 28 Dec 07 - 10:47 PM
Stewie 28 Dec 07 - 10:54 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 29 Dec 07 - 03:03 PM
Stewie 29 Dec 07 - 11:41 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: GONNA DIE WITH MY HAMMER IN MY HAND
From: Roberto
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 11:38 AM

GONNA DIE WITH MY HAMMER IN MY HAND
The Williamson Brothers and Curry
(also included in Harry Smith's Anthology). Please, help complete and correct this text. Thanks. R

John Henry, he told his Captain:
Man ain't nothin' but a man
Before I'll be beaten by this old steam drill
Lord, I'll die with my hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord
Lord, I'll die with my hammer in my hand

John Henry, he told his Captain:
Captain, how can it be
The Big Bend tunnel on the C and O road
Gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord
Gonna be the death of me

John Henry had a little hammer
Handle was made of …
Everytime …
….


John Henry, he told his Shaker:
Shaker you better pray
For if I miss this little piece of steel
Tomorrow'll be your burying day, Lord, Lord
Tomorrow'll be your burying day

John Henry had but one only child
Had him in the palm of his hand
The very last words John Henry said:
Son, don't be a steel drivin' man, Lord, Lord
Son, don't be a steel drivin' man

John Henry had a little woman
Her name was Sally Ann
John Henry got sick and he could not work
Sally drove the steel like a man, Lord, Lord
Sally drove the steel like a man


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Amos
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 11:39 AM

These are a small subset of the whole song, as I am sure you know.


A


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Roberto
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 12:00 PM

Yes, Amos. I know many recordings of this song. This time, I'm looking for the lyrics of this one, not my very favourite but a good one. I hope to get help, because the Harry Smith Anthology is widely known. R


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: 12-stringer
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 02:10 PM

John Henry had a little hammer
Handle was made of oak
Every time he hit the drill on the head
Hammer ...

Can't make out the last line at all, though the sound rhymes with "oak." (Sounds to me like "Hammer ... out and broke," though the rhyming word could also be "smoke".)

FWIW, the Anthology Songbook just gives this verse as "unintelligible."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 02:20 PM

I've got the Harry Smith anthology on disk here - give me a few minutes to print off the pages and I'll run through it.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 02:30 PM

Roberto

There are only very minor differences from the text as given in the Harry Smith Anthology, both in the first verse:

  A man ain't...
  But before I'll

Of verse 3, it merely prints (Third verse if unintelligible) and moves on to the fourth verse.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Roberto
Date: 25 Dec 07 - 03:19 AM

Thanks, 12-stringer, now we are a few words from the goal. R


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 27 Dec 07 - 07:36 AM

OK, I'm being kind of imaginative here, but this is the best I can come up with:

John Henry had a little hammer.
Handle was made of oak.
Every time he hit the drill on the head,
Hammer reaches down and broke, Lord, Lord,
Hammer reaches down and broke.

The above verse would make more sense if there were an accompanying, contrasting verse:

John Henry had another hammer,
Handle was made of steel…

* * *

From Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend By Scott Reynolds Nelson, 2006, page 125:

Other parallels between the story of Samson and the story of John Henry crop up in some unique versions of the John Henry ballad, suggesting that performers saw in John Henry's story a retelling of Samson's. One version declared:
    John Henry had a little hammer,
    The handle was made of bone.
    Every time he hit the drill on the head,
    He thought of regions far beyond.
in this version John Henry's hammer made of bone evokes Samson's biblical tool, the jawbone of an ass….

* * *

The pages that are available through Google Book Search don't include the endnotes, so I don't know where the quoted verse came from, but I don't think it's an accurate transcription of the Williamson Brothers' verse.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Roberto
Date: 27 Dec 07 - 08:57 AM

Thanks, Jim Dixon, thanks a lot. R


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 27 Dec 07 - 11:19 AM

Finally got round to listening to this and would suggest the following changes:

1) v1: Ignore my earlier correction from the book - they're not on the recording

2) v3: I'd agree with Jim's transcription apart from the last line, which I think is:
   Hammer reaches down and drove
   
3) v4: For if I miss this six-foot steel

4) v5: seems to be more like
      Fit in the palm of your hand


Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: GUEST,Roberto
Date: 28 Dec 07 - 06:51 AM

Maybe v5 says: sat in the palm of your hand...

Ok for v4: For if I miss this six-foot steel


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 28 Dec 07 - 03:20 PM

I've been listening to v3 again, and the last line could be:

Half the region done choke

(or something similar).


I haven't decided on that v5 line yet.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Stewie
Date: 28 Dec 07 - 10:47 PM

Mick, I reckon your first thought for v3 is closer. I definitely hear 'Hammer reaches down'. Could it be 'and talks'? Whatever the word is, it sounds to me that it is followed by the harmony singer singing 'Lord, Lord' in the first instance:

Hammer reaches down and talks, Lord, Lord
Hammer reaches down and talks

v5 lines sounds to me like 'Set/sat in the palm of your hand'.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Stewie
Date: 28 Dec 07 - 10:54 PM

Sorry, when I finally found the track in my collection, I went straight to the third verse without listening to the rest. 'Lord, Lord' is obvious from the rest of the stanzas.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 29 Dec 07 - 03:03 PM

I think I'd be happy to go with set in v5.

I've been listening to v3 again (you can't imagine how many filters/time stretches/dynamics I've applied with SoundForge listening to that verse!) and now offer another possibility:

  John Henry had a little hammer,
  Handle was made o' bone.
  Every time he hit the drill on the head,
  Hammer reaches down and groan, Lord, Lord,
  The hammer reaches down and groan.


Mick


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Williamson Brothers' John Henry
From: Stewie
Date: 29 Dec 07 - 11:41 PM

Once again, I reckon you've cracked it, Mick. Well done!

--Stewie.


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