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John Henry

This song is by Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie and appears on the compilation American Roots: A History of American Folk Music (1999).

Well John Henry when he was a little baby
He was sittin' on his mama's knee
He said "The Big Bend Tunnel
On that C & O Road
Is gonna be the death of me"
He said "It's gonna be the death of me"

Well John Henry had a little woman
And her name was Polly Ann
When John Henry took sick
An' he was lying up in bed
It was Polly Ann drove steel like a man
Yes Polly Ann drove steel like a man

Well, the captain he said to John Henry
"I'm gonna bring my steam drill around
I'm gonna bring my steam drill out on the job
Gonna drive that steel on down
I'm gonna drive that steel on down"

But John Henry said to that captain
"You can bring your steam drill around
You can bring your steam drill out on the job
I will beat your steam drill down
I will beat your steam drill down"

Well John Henry raised that hammer
And he brought it down on the ground
And a man in Chattanooga 300 miles away
Heard a mighty rumbling sound
Well he heard a mighty rumbling sound

Well there are some say he was born down in Texas
And there are some say he come from Maine
But I just say he was a Louisiana man
And leader of a steel driving gang
He was the leader of a steel driving gang

Well John Henry was working on that mountain
And his hammer it caught on fire
And the last words I heard poor John Henry say
"I'd like a cool drink of water 'for I die
I'd like a cool drink of water 'for I die"

Well when John Henry died there was no coffin
That was big enough to hold his bones
So they buried him in a boxcar
Three miles deep
With a mountain for his tombstone
He had a mountain for his tombstone

Then they took ol' John Henry to the graveyard
And they lay him down in the sand
Every locomotve come a-roarin by
Hollered "Yonder lies a steel drivin' man
John Henry
Yonder lies a steel drivin' man"

They hollered
"Yonder lies a steel drivin' man, John Henry
Yonder lies that steel drivin' man"

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