|photo credit: Jusben|
John Henry was a black railroad worker who apparently died around 1873 during the
construction of the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia on the C & O railroad.
Here's an easy version of how I play it on the piano with 4/4 time signature and
in the Key of C.
Friday Folk Song: John Henry
C When John Henry was a little baby G7 Sittin' on his daddy's knee C He picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel, said, F C F This hammer's gonna be the death of me, Lawd, Lawd F C This hammer's gonna be the death of me.
(arr. by Bruce Springsteen from the album "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions") 4/26/06 CAPO III INTRO: D A7 D G D A7 D D/C# Bm D A7 D D Well John Henry was a little baby A7 Sittin' on his daddy's knee D G He'd pick up a hammer and a little piece of steel D A7 D D/C# Bm And cry hammer's gonna be the death of me, lord lord D A7 D Hammer gonna be the death of me D Now the captain he said to John Henry A7 I'm gonna bring that steam drill around D G I'm gonna bring that steam drill out on these tracks D A7 D D/C# Bm I'm gonna knock that steel on down, god god D A7 D I'm gonna knock that steel on down John Henry told his captain Lord a man ain't nothin' but a man But 'fore I let that steam drill beat me down I'm gonna die with a hammer in my hand, lord lord Die with a hammer in my hand INTRO John Henry drivin' on the right side That steam drill drivin' on the left Says 'fore I let your steam drill beat me down I'm gonna hammer myself to death, lord lord I'll hammer my poor self to death Well captain said to John Henry What is that storm I hear John Henry said that ain't storm captain That's just my hammer in the air, lord lord That's just may hammer in the air John Henry said to his shaker Shaker why don't you sing 'Cause I'm swingin' thirty pounds from my hips on down Yeah listen to my cold steel ring, lord lord Listen to my cold steel ring INTRO (2x) That John Henry he hammered in the mountains His hammer was strikin' fire But he worked so hard he broke his heart John Henry laid down his hammer and died, lord lord John Henry laid down his hammer and died Well now John Henry he had him a woman By the name of Polly Anne She walked out to those tracks, picked up John Henry's hammer And Polly drove steel like a man, lord lord Polly drove that steel like a man, oh Oh now every, every Monday mornin' When the bluebird, he begin to sing You can hear John Henry from a mile or more You can hear John Henry's hammer ring, lord lord You can hear John Henry's hammer ring D A7 D D/C# Bm You can hear John Henry's hammer ring, lord lord D A7 D You can hear John Henry's hammer ring CHORDS without capo: D = F D/C# = F/E Bm = Dm G = Bb A7 = C7
John Henry is stronger than ten men, and can dig through a mountain faster than a steam drill. Julius Lester's folksy retelling of a popular African-American folk ballad has warmth, tall tale humor, and boundless energy. Jerry Pinkney illustrates the story with "rich colors borrowed from the rocks and the earth, so beautiful that they summon their own share of smiles and tears"
John Henry (Picture Puffins)
“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” -- C. S. Lewis
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