Friday Five: John Henry
According to myth and folklore, some 170 years ago, a hero was born with a hammer in his hand. John Henry was a mountain of a man who developed a specialty of driving railroad steel. When the railroad owner had the foreman bring a steam-powered hammer to do the work, John Henry challenged the owner to a contest. John Henry bet his life for the jobs of his fellow black driving crew. He raced the steam hammer alone through a mountain. In the end, John Henry beat the machine, but exhausted, collapsed and dies.
Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe sings about the folk hero in “Nine Pound Hammer:” “That nine pound hammer that killed John Henry/Ain’t a gonna kill me, ain’t a gonna kill me.”
My kids were watching the Disney channel this past week and saw an animated short about John Henry hosted by James Earl Jones. It got me thinking about the similarities between John Henry’s tale and the current state of the music business. Our music heroes are trying to carve out a living just like John Henry was. In their case, it’s selling their music. In our modern story, the railroad owner could be Steve Jobs. The steam-powered hammer could be compared to iTunes. Instead of the death of man-powered railroad tie-laying, this modern story tells of the tale of the death of the album. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it does bring about this week’s Friday Five–five songs about John Henry.
- Michael A.: Has anyone else had a difficult time trying to get the free download from the Reba site?
- Dave D.: I can't believe that I never saw the Willie Nelson Monk episode - and it was a Sharona episode, as …
- nm: Taylor Swift was on CSI once. Not only was Steve Earle on The Wire, in one episode Omar quoted him about …
- Barry Mazor: It's only a slight stretch to recall when Jimmy Dean met James Bond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbwDGtj84YY
- Arlene: I suspect you'll also be including an episode of L.A. Law....
- luckyoldsun: The Johnny Cash episode was the one Columbo case where you really felt "the b--- had it coming."
- A.B.: Janice - I saw that too and sent him a Tweet about it.
- Janice Brooks: Peter Cooper needs an edit. Stringbean did not die in 1964.
- Leeann: I can't contribute to this list, but I did think of Steve Earle and The Wire. It's not my …
- Jeremy Dylan: That was a great episode of Monk. The "Georgia On My Mind" scene is just heartbreaking.