About The Song

Tennessee Ernie Ford – 16 Tons: A Song of Coal Miner Struggle

“Sixteen Tons” is a powerful and iconic country music song first recorded by Merle Travis in 1946. However, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 1955 cover became the more commercially successful version, propelling the song to international fame.

Story and Themes:

The song tells the story of a coal miner trapped in a cycle of debt and oppression. The lyrics describe the harsh working conditions, long hours, and unfair wages faced by miners. The title “Sixteen Tons” refers to the quota a miner had to meet each day to earn a meager living.

Themes explored in the song include:

  • Labor exploitation: The song criticizes the unfair treatment of coal miners by company owners.
  • Poverty and debt: The lyrics depict the miners’ struggle to escape a cycle of debt owed to the company store.
  • Despair and hopelessness: The song conveys the miners’ sense of being trapped and having no control over their lives.
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Impact of Ford’s Version:

  • Ford’s version, with its smoother sound and more mainstream appeal, brought the song to a wider audience.
  • The song became an anthem for coal miners and working-class people everywhere.
  • “Sixteen Tons” helped raise awareness of the harsh realities of coal mining and labor exploitation.

Legacy:

  • “Sixteen Tons” remains a powerful and relevant song, even decades after its release.
  • The song has been covered by numerous artists across various genres, a testament to its enduring message.
  • It continues to be an important part of American music history and a reminder of the struggles faced by working people.

Here are some additional resources you might find interesting:

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Video

Lyrics

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 🎤
Some people say a man is made outta mudA poor man’s made outta muscle and bloodMuscle and blood and skin and bonesA mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong
You load 16 tons, what do you get?Another day older and deeper in debtSt. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t goI owe my soul to the company store
I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shineI picked up my shovel and I walked to the mineI loaded 16 tons of number nine coalAnd the straw boss said, “Well, a-bless my soul”
You load 16 tons, what do you get?Another day older and deeper in debtSt. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t goI owe my soul to the company store
I was born one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rainFightin’ and trouble are my middle nameI was raised in the canebrake by an ol’ mama lionCan’t no high toned woman make me walk the line
You load 16 tons, what do you get?Another day older and deeper in debtSt. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t goI owe my soul to the company store
If you see me comin’, better step asideA lotta men didn’t, a lotta men diedOne fist of iron, the other of steelIf the right one don’t get youThen the left one will
You load 16 tons, what do you get?Another day older and deeper in debtSt. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t goI owe my soul to the company store

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