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When John Henry was a - little baby boy,
You could hold him in the palm of your hand,
He - gave a long and a lonesome cry,
"Gonna be a steel-drivin' man,
(spoken) Lawd, Lawd,
Gonna be a steel-drivin' man."
Well, the captain said to - John Henry,
"Gonna bring that steam drill 'round,
Gonna take that steam drill out on - the job,
Gonna whop that steel - on - down,
Gonna whop that steel on down."
John Henry said to the captain.
Well, a man ain't nothing but a man,
And before I let a steam drill beat me down,
Gonna die with the hammer in my hand,
Gonna die with a hammer in my hand.
They - took John Henry to the tunnel
Put him in the lead to drive.
The - rock so tall,
John - Henry so small,
That he laid down his hammer and he cried,
Laid down his hammer and cried.
John Henry said to the shaker,
"Now, Shaker, why - don't you sing?
I'm - thowin' nine pounds from my hips on down,
Just - listen to the cold - steel - ring,
Just listen to the cold steel ring."
Well, the man that invented the steam drill.
He thought he was - mighty fine.
But John Henry drove his - fifteen feet,
And the steam drill only made - nine,
The steam drill only made nine.
John - Henry looked up - at the mountain,
And his hammer was - striking fire.
He - hammered so hard, that he broke - his heart,
And he laid down his hammer and he died,
He laid down his hammer and died.
They - took John Henry to the tunnel,
and they buried him - in the sand,
And - ev'ry locomotive comes a-roaring by,
Says, "There lies a steel - drivin' man,
There lies a steel-drivin' man."