Monday, February 23, 2015

John Henry Where'd You Go?

One of my favorite songs growing up was a song titled "John Henry Where'd You Go" by a man named Don Chaffer. It is a song referencing John Henry who was a hero of African American folklore. A man who worked to drive steel into the ground  in order to make rocks disperse for railroad tracks to be laid down. I think that this relates to the idea of the strong African American instead of the idea that they can only be used for a cheap labor source. He beats the steam machine that was going to take his job, proving that he was good enough. There isn't a link to the music online unless you buy it. If during a break in class one day y'all want to here it I can play it, but I am going to post the lyrics. This song reminds me a lot of what the struggle of slavery and post slavery was about for African Americans. It was and is about making a name for oneself and showing that we are capable of exceeding expectations.


John Henry, where'd you go? 
I wonder every time it snows 
See the hammer and the body in the evening light 
Skin of brown 
under a bed of white 

The cracked mountains of those cold cruel mines 
An elegy under the steam drill's whine 
If you listen right at suppertime 
At sunset 
you can hear it chime 

CHORUS 
That ringing sound like silver 
That ringing sound like gold 
That ringing sound like angel choirs 
That never grow old 

His mother hardly speaks 
Her rocking chair just creaks 
I will sit here in the darkness when the sun falls down 
Eat supper cold 
listen for that sound 

That was one hell of a year 
So I'll make my prayer clear 
Let the hammer crack the suffering tree 
And crack the sky 
So everyone can see 

CHORUS 
John Henry shines like silver 
John Henry shines like gold 
John Henry's like the angel choirs 
That never grow old 

His mother sings like silver 
His mother shines like gold 
His mother sings That ringing sing sing like angel choirs 
That never grow old

2 comments:

Iris Mire said...

So, back pre-Katrina when I was still homeschooled and still checked out VHS videos from the library, I watched this animated movie about John Henry that was part of and "American Legends" series. I couldn't find a clip from that exact movie on Youtube, but here is a link to the Ballad of John Henry song that tells John Henry's story. The story of John Henry is absolutely fascinating if you ever get the chance to look into it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OF-3t8Id6mA

alex Monier said...

This really relates to what we did today especially with Baby Sugg's speech on having to love yourself. Even if one is faced with racism, it is still important to never give up and to love oneself.