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.
- Jim Sibley: I like everything about fall! MLB playoffs, football, end of hot, sticky nights, etc, etc. :-)
- Ron Mullins: Cool nights, smell of autumn and colors, and nice feeling in your heart.
- mike mills: Cool night and hunting
- Paul W Dennis: MLB playoffs and the weather here in Florida finally cooling off a little. Also we get the Palatka Bluegrass Festival …
- Tony Branscomb: Peaceful Quiet Days In The Woods Watching Wildlife Playing.
- jenny patrick: my favorite part of autumn is the smell of a bonfire to roast weiners and marshmallows on .
- jeanie kinman: My favorite part of Autumn is all the festivals with bands playing Bluegrass music..Come on down to Ky Joe Mullins …
- Keith Saterwhite: My favorite part of Autumn are the beautiful colors on the trees, here in the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains.
- phillip Martinez: Thanks Joe, for always the great music.
- Martin DeSimio: Fresh apple cider.