Sung slowly and deliberately, these songs usually contain the lines "This old hammer killed John Henry / but it won't kill me." Nelson explains that: ...workers managed their labor by setting a "stint," or pace, for it. Here was a song that told you what happened to men who worked too fast: they died ugly deaths; their entrails fell on the ground.
Although most of these men had heard of but not seen the famous contest between John Henry and the steam drill, Johnson ultimately was able to find a man who said he had seen it. Nelson speculates that Henry, like many African Americans might have come to Virginia to work on the clean-up of the battlefields after the Civil War.
This man, known as Neal Miller, told me in plain words how he had come to the tunnel with his father at 17, how he carried water and drills for the steel drivers, how he saw John Henry every day, and, finally, all about the contest between John Henry and the steam drill. Arrested and tried for burglary, he was among the many convicts released by the warden to work as leased labor on the C&O Railway.
The adorable couple exchanged vows during a romantic, luxurious ceremony at an estate in the posh Lake Como, Italy, according to E! It was a small, intimate ceremony but definitely star-studded — John’s frequent collaborator Kanye West attended while model Brooklyn Decker acted as Chrissy’s maid of honor, according to .
Rapper Biz Markie was also on hand to DJ at the reception.
He is said to have worked as a "steel-driving man"—a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel.