Friday Five: Mining Deaths

Ken Morton, Jr. | November 18th, 2011

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.


5.  Tom T. Hall – “Trip To Hyden”

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.


4. Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger — “Ballad of Springhill”

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.


3. Dwight Yoakam & Ralph Stanley — “Miner’s Prayer”

“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.


2. Keith Whitley & Ricky Skaggs – “Dream of a Miner’s Child”

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.

1. Jimmy Dean — “Big Bad John”

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.

  1. bob
    November 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I remember “Big Bad John” well since it was a crossover hit in ’61.

    The Bee Gees had a hit with “New York Mining Disaster 1941″ in ’67.

  2. Rick
    November 18, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    This topic is a perfect place to plug a fine song about the true story surrounding the death of a miner’s young daughter back in the early 1900’s in Goldfield, Nevada. Top tier western/cowgirl artist Mary Kaye was inspired to write this song after reading the autobiographical book “The Life of an Ordinary Woman” by Anne Ellis. According to Mary the rough hewn grave marker that just says “Joy” can still be found in the Goldfield cemetery to this day. Well worth a listen for western music fans, and everyone else for that matter…


  3. luckyoldsun
    November 19, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Listening to “Big John,” it’s just amazing that this was a No. 1 POP hit in 1961. I can’t imagine rock stations playing this 20 times a day and teenage girls singing along to it.

  4. Barry Mazor
    November 19, 2011 at 8:25 am

    In that era, Luckyol’, the Top 40 Pop charts included whatever the best moving singles were. So where I lived (Harrisburg PA) , for example, a few years later, the top three hits might have been The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love,” the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” and Buck Owens’ “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail.” That’s how it was. (And it was pretty good.)

  5. badrockandroll
    November 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

    @Barry: I remember a month long cross-continent family road trip in 1968 – 2 adults, 3 kids, a baby, a teenager and a dog in a Chrysler – and the only thing that prevented homicide was the AM radio.
    And to the Friday 5, may I remind everyone of Kathy mattea’s “Coal” which presented other types of hazards for miners (and is a straight up good album as well).

  6. Carrie
    November 21, 2011 at 10:34 am

    And as the token Dierks fan, I’d recommend “Down in the Mine.”

  7. nm
    November 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Is this mostly a non-Dierks environment? I didn’t know that. I thought we we all Dierks-friendly here.

  8. Carrie
    November 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    No, I just feel like I tend to mention him more than not, that’s all. :)

  9. Jack Williams
    November 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Blue Diamond Mines by the Johnson Mountain Boys. Don’t think anyone actually dies in the song. More like death of the spirit.

Tagged In This Article

// // // // // // //

Current Discussion

  • Paige: Oh damn. :( I never commented here and I haven't been listening to any music at all since Thanksgiving (it …
  • Dave W.: Just read the news here. Will miss E145 very much - love this site. All the best to you Juli …
  • Leeann Ward: Oh, dang! This is real. Farewell to the most generous, informative, quality, intelligent, consistent, ethical country music blog! You …
  • bll: Thanks Juli for all the great articles and information; you'll be missed by me and I suss several others. Best …
  • Both Kinds of Music: I hope people appreciate the irony that one of the best "Americana" albums is titled Metamodern Sounds in COUNTRY Music.
  • Barry Mazor: I would not rule out that possibility..There's a different set of voters involved..
  • Dana M: Does anyone else think that Brandy Clark actually has a good chance of winning since this isn't a country awards …
  • Juli Thanki: UPDATE: Brandy Clark got a Best New Artist nom. BEST AMERICANA ALBUM: Rosanne Cash -- The River & The Thread John Hiatt -- Terms …
  • luckyoldsun: Glenn Campbell is great and I'd love to see him get an award, but the words of that song may …
  • Casey Penn: Juli, it was an honor to write for you here on You're good at what you do, and The …

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • walkerandthetexasdangers3
  • deadmanstown
  • tom t hall storytellers
  • paulthorntooblessed
  • duhksbeyondtheblue
  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton