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John Henry told his captain that a man was nothin' but a man
Before he'd let that steam drill run him down, he fought it with his hammer in his hand
Fought it with his hammer in his hand
The captain said to John Henry, “Gonna bring me a steam drill round,
Gonna bring that steam drill out on the job, gonna whoop that steel on down,
Gonna whoop that steel on down.”
The captain said to his shaker, “Shaker, why don't you sing?”
“I'm throwing twelve pounds from the hips on down, just listen to that cold steel ring,
Listen to that cold steel ring.”
The captain said to John Henry, “I think this mountain's cavin' in.”
John Henry gave one long and lonesome cry, said “That's only my hammer suckin' wind;
That's only my hammer suckin' wind.”
John Henry had a little woman, her name was Polly Ann.
When John Henry was sick and a-layin' in bed, Polly drove steel like a man,
Polly drove steel like a man.
“Where did you get that dress, gal? Where did you get those shoes so fine?”
“I got that dress from off a railroad man, and the shoes from a driver in the mine,
And shoes from a driver in the mine.”
John Henry went down to the railroad with the twelve-pound hammer by his side,
He walked down the track but he didn't come back, cos he laid down his hammer and he died,
He laid down his hammer and he died.