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

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around his neck — the other end being held in the sheriff's hands. He is reported to have murdered another Negro over twenty-five cents, — or over a woman,—or over a card quarrel, and to have paid the penalty for it.
Ex-Governor McCorkie of West Virginia wrote to Mr. Cox about Hardy: "It was about 1872 that he was in this section. This was before the day of steam-drills and the drill work was done by two powerful men who were special steel-drillers. They struck the steel from side to side, and sang a song they improvised as they worked." He also says that John Hardy (alias Henry) was the most famous steel-driller ever in his section, and one of the handsomest men in the country, "black as a kittle in hell," he was called. Such romantic characters present puzzlements to the law, but they lend romance to folk-lore, and John Henry is a very real person to the southern Negro who sings of him.
Here is a hammer-song that has to do with a more ancient event than John Henry's untimely taking-off. It is a spiritual adapted to use as a work-song, for the antiphonal questions and responses mark the rhythmic strokes of the hammer — which tool here is given power of thought and speech.

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