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"Hard Working Miner," From Tipple, Loom, & Rail

"Hard Working Miner" from the recording entitled Tipple, Loom, & Rail, Folkways FH 5273, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. © 1966. Used by permission.

Mike Seeger has long been attracted to the repertory of the late James Howard, blind fiddler from Harlan, Kentucky. John and Alan Lomax collected a number of Howard's pieces in the 1930's for deposit in the Library of Congress. The earliest coal mining song John Lomax collected in Kentucky (August, 1933) was Howard's "The Hard Working Miner," which was published in American Ballads and Folk Songs Although this song is the most widespread American mining songs and one of the few common to coal miners (anthracite and bituminous) as well as non-ferrous metal mines (gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead), its full history has not yet been traced. Wayland Hand and Duncan Emrich have provided an exceedingly useful background for this ballad which bears the parallel titles "Hard Working Miner" and "Only a Miner."

Partial Lyrics:
"The hard working miner, the dangers are great,
So many while mining have met their sad fate.
While doing their duty as all miners do,
Shut off from the daylight and darling ones, too.

He's only a miner been killed in the ground,
Only a miner and one more is gone.
Killed by an accident, there's no one can tell,
His mining's all over, poor miner, farewell..."


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