The Ballad of John Henry by Joe Bonamassa

I saw Joe Bonamassa on PBS and was blown away by his version of The Ballad of John Henry, performed live at Royal Albert Music Hall.

The Royal Albert Hall DVD

According to legend, John Henry was a railroad worker, a slave, a big man and powerful with a sledge hammer, to drive chisels deep in rock to place charges, to drive stakes in ties to hold rails. The railroad bought a steam hammer to replace the men at their work, so John Henry competed with it, and won, driving more stakes in an hour. But he died from exhaustion. One moral is to avoid dehumanizing society wtih industry. But another is that machines free humans to take on new endeavors. Which is “right”? The process of change is not pleasant. Joe Bonamassa puts a twist on the end of the lyric, “Who killed John Henry?” Joe suggests an answer. The legend is fascinating but it is a “head” thing. The music is a “heart” thing with feeling and power, and resolve. Enjoy!

The Ballad of John Henry, Lyric by Joe Bonamassa

Who killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints
Who killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints

Take this hammer carry it to the Captain , Tell him why i’m gone
Take this hammer carry it to the Captain , Tell him i’m goin’ home

I don’t want your cold iron shackles round’ my leg
I don’t want your cold iron shackles round’ my leg

Who killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints
Who killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints

I’m a long way from Colorado , A long way from my home
… Get the hammer that killed John Henry , Won’t kill me no more
Gimme the hammer that killed John Henry , Cos it won’t kill me
Gimme the hammer that killed John Henry , Cos it won’t kill me

Who killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints
Who killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints

Take this hammer carry it to the Captain , Tell him i’m goin’ home
Take this hammer carry it to the Captain , Tell him why i’m gone
I’m a wanted man with the Captain
I’m a wanted man in the shackles
I’m a wanted man in the shackles
I’m a wanted man …..

Who killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints
Who killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints
Ohhhh Ohhhhhhh

I killed John Henry , In the battle of sinners and saints
Ohhhh Ohhhhhhhhh

Lyrics courtesy Joe Bonamassa
John Henry (folklore) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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