Song Lyric Sunday — “Working in the Coal Mine” and “Working Man”

Jim Adams continues to masterfully chaperone Song Lyric Sunday, originated by Helen Vahdati. Jim’s update on Helen’s health is here; I hope she feels better soon. I agree with her that SLS has become a community and, with Jim now at the helm, is no longer “hers.”  Seems to me that Jim’s stewardship has also brought in some new players, so our musical world is expanding. Thanks to both Jim and Helen!

This week’s topic, occupation, immediately reminded me of two songs that, although written more than twenty years apart, both describe the hardship of a coal miner’s life.  New Orleans jazz and blues songwriter/musician/producer, Allen Toussaint, penned my first choice “Working In The Coal Mine” in 1966. It became an international hit for singer Lee Dorsey. Dorsey’s peppy delivery, echoed by such subsequent artists as Devo (1981), belies the somber lyrics, so I’ve chosen a better-suited fan-made video with audio featuring Dorsey.

My second choice, “Working Man,” was released twenty-two years later in 1988, written and performed by Canadian Rita MacNeil. MacNeil was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada’s coal mining center from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s. Inspired to write the song during a visit to a local coal mine, she related in her autobiography that she wrote the melody and lyrics in her head as the tour guide talked. The video I’ve chosen comes from a Celtic Thunder 2010 tour and is sung by the late George Donaldson. (You can read my previous SLS posts featuring George here and here.) Never a coal miner, Donaldson, as the group’s oldest member, performs the song authentically, having been a working man building buses daily and singing in pubs nightly for many years before his success in Celtic Thunder.

 

 

Working in The Coal Mine

Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Five o’clock in the mornin’
I’m already up and gone
Lord, I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Daddy, workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

‘Course I make a little money
Haulin’ coal by the ton
But when Saturday rolls around
I’m too tired for havin’ fun

Too tired for havin’, I’m just workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Lord I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Daddy, workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Five o’clock in the mornin’
I’m already up and gone
Lord, I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Daddy, workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

‘Course I make a little money
Haulin’ coal by the ton
But when Saturday rolls around
I’m too tired for havin’ fun

Too tired for havin’, I’m just workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Lord, I’m so tired

 

 

Working Man

It’s a working man I am
And I’ve been down underground
And I swear to God
If I ever see the sun
Oh for any length of time
I can hold it in my mind
I never again
Will go down underground
At the age of sixteen years
Oh he quarrels with his peers
He vowed they’d never
See another one
In the dark recess of the mine
Where you age before your time
And the coal dust lies heavy
On your lungs
It’s a working man I am
And I’ve been down underground
And I swear to God
If I ever see the sun
Oh for any length of time
I can hold it in my mind
I never again
Will go down underground
At the age of sixty four
He will greet you at the door
And he will gently lead you
By the arm
Through the dark recess of the mine
He will take you back in time
And he’ll tell you of
The hardships that were had
It’s a working man I am
And I’ve been down underground
And I swear to God
If I ever see the sun
Oh for any length of time
I can hold it in my mind
I never again will go down underground
I never again will go down underground
Songwriters: Rita Macneil
Working Man lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — “Working in the Coal Mine” and “Working Man”

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