John Henry and His People: The Historical Origin and Lore of America's Great Folk Ballad (Paperback)

John Henry and His People: The Historical Origin and Lore of America's Great Folk Ballad By John Garst Cover Image
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The song ""John Henry,"" perhaps America's greatest folk ballad, is about an African-American steel driver who raced and beat a steam drill, dying ""with his hammer in his hand"" from the effort. Most singers and historians believe John Henry was a real person, not a fictitious one, and that his story took place in West Virginia--though other places have been proposed. John Garst argues convincingly that it took place near Dunnavant, Alabama, in 1887. The author's reconstruction, based on contemporaneous evidence and subsequent research, uncovers a fascinating story that supports the Dunnavant location and provides new insights. Beyond John Henry, readers will discover the lives and work of his people: Black and white singers; his ""captain,"" contractor Frederick Dabney; C. C. Spencer, the most credible eyewitness; John Henry's wife; the blind singer W. T. Blankenship, who printed the first broadside of the ballad; and later scholars who studied John Henry. The book includes analyses of the song's numerous iterations, several previously unpublished illustrations and a foreword by folklorist Art Rosenbaum.

About the Author

Professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Georgia, John Garst has been active in folk music research and field recording since the 1960s. Besides his study of "John Henry" he is an authority on shape-note hymnody and is noted for discovering the historical bases of ballads like "Delia" and "Ella Speed." He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781476686110
ISBN-10: 1476686114
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Publication Date: December 28th, 2021
Pages: 281
Language: English