“Sixteen Tons”

Today we listened to the song “Sixteen Tons,” and talked about how we might interpret the lyrics to tell us something about cultural stories of coal mining.

Here’s a website that gives some insight into the history of the song, why it was written, how it became popular, and why it was controversial.

Here’s a YouTube video that provides the version of the song as performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford, which is the one we listened to in class.

We focused on two questions:

  • What do Travis’ lyrics suggest about what it’s like to work in a coal mine?
  • How do Travis’ lyrics connect with what was said in our early Working readings about the culture of working-class life?

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