I came up with this for a show my friend and collaborator Dameun Strange put together for the Fringe Festival last year. He asked me if I'd be interested in beat-boxing for a new piece of music he was writing inspired by Langston Hughes. I was honored. And then he asked me to read some of Langston's words...and I was amped. And then I found out he was also creating work inspired by the story of John Henry and the week before the show he asked if I was interested in writing something for that as well. Well, of course I was! So here it is. The Definitive telling...
I dug into the history and varied tellings of this old folk tale and I started seeing all of these connections with this things historically. I found the mountain where John supposedly dug his tunnel and what is said to be his hometown. I found the time he would've have lived in and started drawing parallels. With Harriet Tubman being a very spiritual person and being led to do what what she did in life by what she experienced in her dreams, I thought that this would be the place where John Henry was born. John Henry is a spiritual force, driving the lives of the righteous, those standing up for other people; for what is right. I imagined him as this spiritual and activist leader in this time, taking part in all these historical events.
This is the way I want people to hear about John Henry. When they tell his story, I want them to recite this.
Thanks for reading and listening.