Friday Five: Mining Deaths
Frequent readers of this particular feature may believe that its dark topics go back as far as mining songs. Of course that isn’t the case, but where else could you go to find unique and demented playlists such as being eaten by alligators, songs about drowning, freezing to death, rodeo deaths or being trampled by stampedes. Once we kill off the song’s protagonist, we even provide burial instructions to help finish things off. We’re always trying to keep things warm and fuzzy around here at Engine 145, and so we present this week’s Friday Five.
Hall sings of the Hurricane Creek mine disaster that occurred five miles from Hyden, Kentucky on December 30, 1970. It resulted in the deaths of 38 men. Sadly and ironically, it occurred a year to the day after the passage of the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969.
This song has been covered by Peter, Paul and Mary as well as U2 over the years. It shares the tale of a Nova Scotia mining disaster that occurred on November 1, 1956 in which an explosion in the Springhill mine killed 39 men. Heroically, men without any breathing apparatuses descended over 6,000 feet and rescued 88 miners in the disaster.
“I still grieve for my poor brother/And I still hear my dear old mother cry/When late that night they came and told her/He’d lost his life down in the Big Shoal Mine.” Big Shoal Mine is an actual mine that is in Pike County, Kentucky.
This track has been performed by numerous artists including The Stanley Brothers and Marty Robbins. This particular version, combined with Whitley’s own untimely passing, is pretty haunting, however.
This is perhaps one of most popular mining songs of all time by one of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s most recent inductees. “At the bottom of this mine lies a big, big man” is the ultimate testament to heroism.
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