A Collection Of Negro Traditional & Folk Songs with Sheet Music Lyrics & Commentaries - online book

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vealing the manner in which a ballad may spring into being and grow by accretion, while it is circulated orally over a large territory. Professor Cox was lucky enough even to find a photograph of John Henry on the scaffold.
Lucy Dickinson Urquhart, of Lynchburg, sends this version of the hammer work-song. She says of it: " You know how Negroes working on the roads, in a quarry, or some work of that sort, all lift their picks or hammers together, singing, and come down together, letting their breath out in unison, with a sort of long grunt. Dashes are used here to indicate the grunts. The tune to this is the first part of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing"                           ,
Ef I had 'bout — fo'ty-five doUahs — All in gol', yas — all in gol' — I'd be rich as — oF man Cahtah — Wealth untoF, yas — wealth untoF.
Dis oF hammah — kill John Henry — Kill him daid, yas — kill him daid — Knock de brains out — of mah pahdner — In his haid, yas — in his haid.
I'm gwine back to — South Ca'lina — Fah away, yas — fah away. — I'm gwine see my — Esmeraldy — I cain't stay, no — I cain't stay.
Mrs. Urquhart says, further: "There used to be an old salt works near here, where Negroes worked, stripped to the waist, raking the salt out of the boiling brine. They sang together after this fashion while they worked. But the song given above was to the accom­paniment of hammers."
Wirt A. Williams, from Mississippi, sends a variant known among the Negroes in his state, which suggests another sort of tragedy com­mitted with a hammer:
Dis is de hamma killed John Henry, Killed 'im daid, killed 'im daid. Busted de brains all outen my partner, In his haid, yes, in his haid.
Ef I had 'bout forty-five dollars, All in gold, yes, all in gold, I'd be rich as old man Cyarter, Wealth untold, yes, wealth untold!

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III