Johnny Cash The Legend Of John Henry's Hammer - Live cover

The Legend Of John Henry's Hammer - Live
Lyrics and Meaning


Song Lyrics

Song Meaning
Verse 1
Anybody got any special requests for us to do
John Henry?
Lemme do John Henry then and we'll go...
Verse 2
Johnny Henry's pappy woke him up one midnight
He said "Before the sheriff comes I wanna tell you," Said "Listen boy
Learn to hoist a jack and learn to lay a track learn to pick and shovel too
And take that hammer, It'll do anything you tell it to."
Verse 3
John Henry's mammy had about a dozen babies
John Henry's pappy broke jail about a dozen times
The babies all got sick and when the doctor wanted money
He said, "I'll pay you a quarter at a time starting tomorrow
That's the pay for a steel driver on this line."
Verse 4
Then the section foreman said, "Hey! Hammer-swinger!
I see you your own hammer boy but, what all can them muscles do?" and he said,
"I can hoist a jack I can lay a track I can pick and shovel too."
He said "Can you swing a hammer" He said "do anything you hire me to."
Verse 5
"Now ain't you something! So high and mighty with all that muscle!"
Go ahead, boy. Pick up that hammer, and show me what you can do!"
Verse 6
He said to get a rusted spike and swing it down three times
Pay you a nickel a day for every inch you sink it to
Go on and do what you say you can do
Verse 7
With a steel-nosed hammer on a four foot switch handle
John Henry raised it back 'til it touched his heels then
The spike went through the cross-tie and split it half in two
Thirty-five cents a day for driving steel
Said "Sweat, boy! Sweat! Only two more swings!"
"I was born drivin' steel"
Verse 8
Well now John Henry hammered in the mountains
He'd give a grunt he give a groan every swing
The women-folks from miles around heard him and come down
To watch make the cold-steel ring "Lord! What a swinger!
Watch him make the cold-steel ring"
Verse 9
But the bad boss came up laughin' at John Henry
He said, "You full of vinegar now but you bout' through!
We gonna get a steam drill to do your share of drivin'
Then what's all them muscles gonna do? Huh? John Henry?
Gonna take a little bit of vinegar out of you."
Verse 10
John Henry said, "I feed four little brothers
And baby sisters' walkin' on her knees
Now did the Lord say that machines ought to take place of the livin'?
And what's a substitute for bread and beans? I ain't seen it!
Do engines get rewarded for their steam?
Verse 11
John Henry said to his captain said "A man ain't nothin' but a man
But if you'll bring that steamdrill 'round I'll beat it fair and honest.
I'll die with that hammer in my hand but, I'll be laughin',
Cause you can't replace a steel-drivin' man.
Verse 12
There was a big crowd of people at the mountain.
John Henry said to the steam-drill "How is you?
Said pardon me, Mister Steamdrill I suppose you didn't hear me.
I said how are you Huh?
Can you turn a jack? Can you lay a track? Can you pick and shovel too?
Listen, this hammer-swinger's talkin' to you.
Verse 13
Two-thousand people hollered, "Go John Henry!"
Then somebody hollered," The mountain's cavin' in!"
John Henry told the captin, "Tell the kind-folks not to worry
It ain't nothin' but my hammer suckin' wind, it keeps me breathin'
This steel-driver's muscle it ain't thin.
Verse 14
"Captain tell the people to move back farther
I'm at the finish line and ain't no drill
It's so far behind that it don't got the brains to quit it
When she blows up she'll scatter cross the hills Lord, Lord
When she blows up she'll scatter cross the hills"
Verse 15
Now, John Henry had a little woman
I believe the lady's name was Paulie Ann yeah that was his good woman
John Henry threw his hammer over his shoulder and went on home
Early next mornin' he said,
"Come here Paulie Ann, come here sugar.
Said you know I been laying here, watching that sun come up
And I believe this is the first time I've seen the sun come up
That I couldn't come up with it
He said, (dirty mind),
He said take that hammer, Paulie Ann and go to that railroad
And when you swinging with that lead man
You tell em that's not all I can do. Tell em,
I can hoist a jack and I can lay a track I can pick and shovel too.
Ain't no machine can that's been proved to you!
Verse 16
There was a big crowd of mourners at the church house
The section hands laid him in the sand
Trains go by on the rails John Henry laid.
They slow down and take off the hats,
When they come to whoreys lynn retsina' his back.
They say,"Mornin' Steel-driver, you sure was a hammer-swinger."
Then they go on by pickin' up a little bit of speed.
Clickity clack
Verse 17
Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man lord lord
Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man
Verse 18
Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man lord lord
Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man
Verse 19
Yonder lies a steel-drivin'
Verse 20
Thank you very much
You know John Honey was a real man. He worked on a tunnel in West Virginia
Digin' a tunnel for the San Jose railroad.
And he was a mighty big man they say
That from his heels, on around to the ground he had a stroke of 19 feet
Boy that's a long stroke. Wooo that's a long stroke

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