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August 16

“John Hardy:” A Common Folk Song Told by Various Country Artists

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“John Hardy:” A Common Folk Song Told by Various Country Artists 1
The Carter Family Photo Credit: http://www.45cat.com

Folk songs are interesting songs written with different themes of stories. We can mostly hear folk songs about the ordinary life of a person. “John Hardy”, a famous folk song, does not differ from many folk songs. “John Hardy” is a song about a man who works on the railroads. It was said that he was drunk when he killed a man named Thomas Drews. Hardy was sentenced to death because of his case of murdering a man. He was hung in front of many people. However, before his death, he confessed his sins and been baptized. He finally found the Lord during his last hours alive.

Different Versions

The song was very popular that many artists recorded their own version. Some musicians who recorded this song were Bobby Bare, The Carter Family, Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and Jerry Reed. The song was said to be written by John Hardy during his time of imprisonment. The first recording of this song was in 1924 by Eva Davis.

The Carter Family recorded the song in 1929, and changing the title to “John Hardy was a Desperate Little Man.” Their version of the song was recorded by many artists as well.

The Song’s Content

The song “John Hardy” is all about the life of Hardy. It began by telling how Hardy carries a pistol every day which he used to kill Thomas Drews. In addition, the song also mentioned how he was provoked to kill the man. He was drunk and was gambling. He said that he would kill the man who will win his money. Therefore, when another man won the game, Hardy did not think twice and shot the man. He was supposed to run away, but it was too late for him when the authorities came to take him in. Furthermore, he was not allowed to bail himself out because he murdered a man. The song concluded with Hardy being baptized and being hung because of his doing.

John Hardy vs. John Henry

Often, people confused the story of John Hardy with another folk song about John Henry. John Henry is a man who worked as a steel-driving man. He was not hanged to death like in the story of John Hardy.

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Carter Family, John Hardy


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