"The Legend of John Henry's Hammer"

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."

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 startin' tomorrow

that's the pay for a steel driver on this line."

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 turn a jack I can lay a track I can pick and shovel too."

"Can you swing a hammer, boy?" "Yes sir, I'll do anything you hire me to."


"Now ain't you somethin'! So high and mighty with all that muscle! Just go

ahead, boy. Pick up that hammer, pick up the hammer!"

He said to get a rusted spike and swing it down three times

I'll pay you a nickel a day for every inch you sink it to

Go on and do what you say you can do

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 drivin' steel

"Sweat! Sweat, boy! Sweat! Only two more swings!"

"I was born drivin' steel"

Well John Henry hammered in the mountain

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 coal-steel ring "Lord! What a swinger!

Watch him make the coal-steel ring"

But the bad boys came up laughin' at John Henry

They said," Your full of vinegar now but you bout' through!

We gonna get a steamdrill 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."

John Henry said,"I feed for little brothers

and baby sisters' walkin' on her knees

Now did the Lord say that machines ought to take place of livin'?

And what's a substitute for bread and beans? I ain't seen it!

Do engines get rewarded for their steam?

John Henry hid in a coal mine for his dinner nap

Had thirty minutes to rest before the bell

The mine boys hollered," Get up whoever you are and get a pickax

Mine me enough to start another hell and keep it burnin'

Mine me enough to start another hell.

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.

There was a big crowd of people at the mountain.

John Henry said to the steam-drill "How is you?

(spoken) Pardon me, Mister Steamdrill I suppose you didn't hear me. Huh?

Well, can you turn a jack? Can you lay a track? Can you pick and shovel too?

Listen, this hammer-swinger's talkin' to you.


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 s_ckin' wind, it keeps me breathin'

This steel-driver's muscle it ain't thin.

"Captain tell the people to move back farther

I'm at the finish line and there 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"



Well, 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

He laid down to rest his weary back and early next mornin' he said,

"Come here Paulie Ann, come here sugar.

You know I believe this is the first time there ever was the sun come

and I couldn't come up. Take my hammer, Paulie Ann and go to that railroad

Swing that hammer like you seen me do it

They'll all know your John Henry's woman but tell em' that ain't all you can


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!

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, the men do

when they come to the place where he's laying' 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 clickity clack clickity clack clickity clack


Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man lord lord

Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man

Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man lord lord

Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man

Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man lord lord

Yonder lies a steel-drivin' man

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