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John Henry

anonimo
Lingua: Inglese

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‎[seconda metà dell’800]‎

Quella del fortissimo nero John Henry in gara con la perforatrice a vapore nella ‎costruzione di una ferrovia è una figura mitica dell’orgoglio afroamericano, così come ‎‎Casey Jones lo è per i macchinisti e ferrovieri bianchi ‎o The Big Hewer per minatori inglesi. ‎
Mitologica ma anche storica.‎



Come tantissime sono le versioni della canzone popolare – io ho scelto quella pubblicata nel 1900 il ‎cui testo ho reperito proprio sul sito dedicato, John ‎Henry, the Steel Driving Man – parecchie sono le biografie del protagonista. Quel che è sicuro è ‎che un possente nero chiamato Henry, uno schiavo oppure un detenuto membro di una “chain gang” ‎‎(le squadre di prigionieri alla catena utilizzati come manodopera a costo zero nei lavori più faticosi), ‎lavorò nella seconda metà dell’800 alla costruzione di un tunnel ferroviario, probabilmente in ‎Virginia. La leggenda vuole che Henry, con la sua pesantissima mazza con cui produceva nella ‎roccia i fori per le cariche di dinamite, abbia surclassato una nuovissima e potente perforatrice ‎meccanica, salvo poi morire per lo sforzo sostenuto ma salvando al contempo il posto di lavoro dei ‎propri compagni che sarebbero stati cacciati, soppiantati dalle macchine.‎
Insomma, una figura allegorica dello sfruttamento degli afroamericani, della loro forza e del loro ‎contributo di sudore e sangue alla costruzione del Paese, nonché della lotta dell’uomo contro la ‎macchina e della tragedia della modernizzazione… Come si vede in tantissimi film “carcerari” – da ‎‎“I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang” del 1932 fino al piuttosto recente “O Brother, Where Art ‎Thou?” dei fratelli Coen – i lavoratori addetti a spaccare pietre o a fissare traversine lavoravano ad ‎un ritmo preciso scandito dal canto, un ritmo abbastanza lento da poter arrivare vivi alla fine della ‎giornata, guai a chi sgarrava… Con l’introduzione delle macchine gli uomini furono costretti a ben ‎altri ritmi o a soccombere, in un modo o nell'altro, per davvero...

La figura titanica di John Henry divenne in seguito un simbolo per i movimenti dei lavoratori e dei ‎diritti civili, simbolo di abnegazione, dello sfruttamento, della dignità dell’essere umano contro la ‎degradazione dell’era delle macchine, di orgoglio razziale e di solidarietà. Divenne pure uno degli ‎strumenti della propaganda governativa per propugnare la tolleranza razziale.‎

Nelle sue tante versioni “John Henry” è stata proposta da una miriade di artisti, fra i quali Pete ‎Seeger, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, Van Morrison ed ‎‎Harry Belafonte.
John Henry was a railroad man,
He worked from six 'till five,
‎"Raise 'em up bullies and let 'em drop down,
I'll beat you to the bottom or die."

John Henry said to his captain:
‎"You are nothing but a common man,
Before that steam drill shall beat me down,
I'll die with my hammer in my hand."

John Henry said to the Shakers:
‎"You must listen to my call,
Before that steam drill shall beat me down,
I'll jar these mountains till they fall."

John Henry's captain said to him:
‎"I believe these mountains are caving in."
John Henry said to his captain: "Oh, Lord!"
‎"That's my hammer you hear in the wind."

John Henry he said to his captain:
‎"Your money is getting mighty slim,
When I hammer through this old mountain,
Oh Captain will you walk in?"

John Henry's captain came to him
With fifty dollars in his hand,
He laid his hand on his shoulder and said:
‎"This belongs to a steel driving man."

John Henry was hammering on the right side,
The big steam drill on the left,
Before that steam drill could beat him down,
He hammered his fool self to death.

They carried John Henry to the mountains,
From his shoulder his hammer would ring,
She caught on fire by a little blue blaze
I believe these old mountains are caving in.

John Henry was lying on his death bed,
He turned over on his side,
And these were the last words John Henry said
‎"Bring me a cool drink of water before I die."

John Henry had a little woman,
Her name was Pollie Ann,
He hugged and kissed her just before he died,
Saying, "Pollie, do the very best you can."

John Henry's woman heard he was dead,
She could not rest on her bed,
She got up at midnight, caught that No. 4 train,
‎"I am going where John Henry fell dead."

They carried John Henry to that new burying ground
His wife all dressed in blue,
She laid her hand on John Henry's cold face,
‎"John Henry I've been true to you."‎

inviata da Dead End - 21/8/2012 - 15:11




Lingua: Inglese

La versione live di Bruce Springsteen ‎da “We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions”‎
JOHN HENRY

One, two, three

When John Henry was a little baby
Sittin' on his daddy's knee
He picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel
And cried, "hammer's gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord
Hammer's gonna be the death of me"

Now the captain he said to John Henry
‎"I'm gonna bring that steam drill around
I'm gonna bring that steam drill out on these tracks
I'm gonna knock that steel on down, God, God
I'm gonna knock that steel on down"

John Henry told his captain,
‎"Lord a man ain't nothin' but a man
But before I let this steam drill beat me down
I'm gonna die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord
Die with a hammer in my hand"

Ready Sue!

John Henry driving on the right side
That steam drill driving on the left
Says, "'fore I'll let your steam drill beat me down
I'm gonna hammer myself to death, Lord, Lord
I'll hammer my fool self to death"

Well, captain said to John Henry
‎"What is that storm I hear?"
John Henry said, "That ain't no storm
Captain, that's just my hammer in the air, Lord, Lord
That's just my hammer in the air"

John Henry said to his shaker
‎"Shaker, why don't you sing?
‎'Cause I'm swigin' thirty pounds from my hips on down
Yeah, listen to my cold steel ring, Lord, Lord
Listen to my cold steel ring"

Come on ???!

I wanna hear that banjo now too!

I want it now!

Now John Henry he hammered in the mountains
His hammer was striking fire
But he worked so hard, it broke his heart
John Henry laid his hammer and died, Lord, Lord
John Henry laid down his hammer and died

Well now John Henry he had him a woman
By the name of Polly Ann
She walked out to those tracks, picked up John Henry's hammer
Polly drove steel like a man, Lord, Lord
Polly drove that steel like a man

Come on!

Well every, every Monday morning
When a bluebird he began to sing
You could hear John Henry from a mile or more
You can hear John Henry's hammer ring, Lord, Lord
You can hear John Henry's hammer ring
Set out again!
So you can hear John Henry's hammer ring, Lord, Lord
You can hear John Henry's hammer ring
Come on! Woah!

One, two, a one two three four!

It's good

inviata da Dead End - 21/8/2012 - 15:12


Anche Joe Bonamassa.

22/4/2013 - 16:23




Lingua: Italiano

Versione di Sid Hemphill raccolta da Alan Lomax (1942)
alan Lomax

This is the hammer killed John Henry
Laid him low, laid him low
This is the hammer killed John Henry
Laid him

Take this hammer to the Captain
Tell him he's gone, tell him he's gone
Take your hammer to the Captain

When you hear that bulldog a-barkin'
Somebody 'round, somebody 'round
When you hear that bulldog a-barkin'
Somebody's 'round, somebody's 'round

When you hear that peafowl a holl'in'
Gwonna rain, gwonna rain
When you hear that peafowl holl'in'

Hammer, hammer, killed John Henry
Don't you see, don't you see?
Hammer, hammer, killed John Henry

I don't like no red-black woman
Like myself, like myself
I don't like no red-black woman

This is the hammer killed John Henry
Don't kill me, don't kill me
This is the hammer killed John Henry

Take this hammer, carry it to Captain
Tell him he's dead, tell him he's dead
Take that hammer, carry it to Captain
He's

This is the hammer killed my brother
He is gone, he is gone
This is the hammer killed my brother

Hammer, hammer killed John Henry
He's gon' need, he's done need
Hammer, hammer killed John Henry

inviata da Dq82 - 12/4/2019 - 11:41



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