Anonymous
timer Asked: May 4th, 2020

Question Description

Background

For as long as there has been work, there have been rhythms, words, and songs integrally

related to work and often sung at the work site and/or during work by the workers. It follows

that these songs just as often serve the functioning of work including timing for various

activities that demand group precision, providing safety, serving as a social outlet, and both

work-related and interpersonal communication . They have been about specific jobs and

careers, the topics generally, or the experience or ideas about the job of the singer or

songwriter.

One example of song used during work for group precision is the railroad gang—defined by the

CSX Railroad Dictionary @ https://www.csx.com/index.cfm/about-us/company-

overview/railroad-dictionary/?i=G as “A group of employees engaged in the maintenance of the

railroad. Usually this term is limited to roadway, bridge and building, and signal forces.

Listen to “John Henry”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_(folklore)

The Assignment Minimum word count is 500 word, NOT counting the headings, any lyrics used in the

body of the essay nor the complete lyrics which must follow the essay.

However, your selection does not have to be about an “old” song. Pick one that you like or that means

something to you.

Your song can be any song which describes work conditions, including the work itself, the

environment, supervisions, etc. If you cannot find background information about the song, choose

another for which adequate resources are provided easily.

The successful essay will include all or most of the following:

1. Provide the name of the song, what it describes, and what it “is about.” Find the

composer of the song and something about them.

2. Any background information (“context”) about the song helps establish its legitimacy.

When and why was the song written or sung?

3. Provide why you chose the song. If you can’t provide a reason, select another song.

4. Describe what song is “about”: is it a description of work environments, the responses

to a work environment, etc. Is it the word or music which appeal to you? Both? Why?

5. Describe the music: fast, slow, loud, soft, etc. Is the tempo and volume effective? Why,

or why not?

6. Provide some of the lyrics that serve as examples.

7. Your essay should answer the essential reporter’s questions:

8. Who, what, where, why, and how.

a. Who wrote the song?

b. Who sang the version of the song you selected.

c. What is the song about?

d. Where was it written and/or where was it recorded?

e. WHY was it written?

f. How was it written?

9. Provide the complete lyrics at the end of your essay after the conclusion.

Examples: beginning information.

“Working in the Coal Mine”

1. Provide the name of the song and what it describes and “is about.” Find the

composer of the song and something about them. Who sang it?

2. Any background information (“context”) about the song helps establish its

legitimacy. When and why was the song written or sung?

The song I have chosen is “Working in The Coal Mine,” a “happy sound” pop song which

describes a miner descending in a coal mine elevator at “5 A.M. in the morning” which fails,

apparently crashes, and leaves the singer alone. Wikipedia introduces the song by noting that

“"Working in the Coal Mine" is a song with music and lyrics by the American musician and record

producer Allen Toussaint. It was an international hit for Lee Dorsey in 1966, and has been recorded

by other musicians including Devo in 1981.” Wikipedia further explains that “the song concerns the

suffering of a man who rises before 5 o'clock each morning in order to work in a coal mine, five days

a week, where the conditions are very harsh and dangerous, but which offers the only prospect of

paid employment. The singer repeatedly asks the Lord, ‘How long can this go on?’ and complains

that when the weekend arrives, he's too exhausted to have any fun.”

3. Provide why you chose the song. If you can’t provide a reason, select another song.

I chose the song because it was catchy; my father used to listen to it a lot when I was a

small child, but I did not really know anything about it, other than me and my little sister loved

to dance to it.

4. Describe what song is “about”: is it a description of work environments, the

responses to a work environment, etc. Is it the words or music which appeal to you?

Both? Why?

The song is in the voice of a man who is descending very deep into a dark coal mine:

Workin' in the coal mine

Goin' down, down, down

Workin' in a coal mine

Oops, about to slip down

These lines are repeated again and again. This demonstrates the very deep depth of the coal mine

and that’s it’s dangerous. The man is always “about to slip down,” and because the mine shaft is so

deep, he will probably be injured or die.

5. Describe the music: fast, slow, loud, soft, etc. Is the tempo and volume effective?

Why, or why not?

The music itself is relatively quick, about 130 beats per minute. It’s definitely danceable

and despite the serious lyrics, seems happy and upbeat. If you heard the music without the

words, you would probably think it’s a happy song. I think that’s a little weird: he’s describing a

real or potential crash in a deep elevator shaft. That possibility is definitely not happy.

6. Provide some of the lyrics that serve as examples.

These tragic conditions have been in the family for at least two generations:

Daddy workin' in the coal mine

Goin' down, down, down

Workin' in a coal mine

Oops, about to slip down

With such terrible conditions, we wonder why he takes the same dangerous job as his father had,

but Dorsey explains, “'Course I make a little money/ Haulin' coal by the ton.” But that is not enough

money to get out of the financial rut because he is working in a system similar to what the young

girls working at the Triangle Shirtwaist were trapped in. They were paid by the amount of work they

did, without any guarantees.

The principal difference is that the men worked underground without light and in constant

danger from the mine shafts collapsing and burying them alive, and the young women and girls had

daylight but in the end were trapped without exits, just as coal miners under tons of rubble were. The

men were paid by the number of tons of coal they mined and the women by the pieces of work they

finished. At the end of a 12-hour day, the women were exhausted and had little money to spend

because they lived with their usually immigrant families and were often the only source of family

income. Dorsey’s fate is similar, as he is exhausted by the intense physical labor: “I'm too tired for

havin' fun/ Too tired for havin',/ I'm just workin' in the coal mine/ Goin' down, down, down.”

The happy sounds of the music may make me want to dance, but looking closely at the lyrics makes

me believe that good sounds or not, working in the coal mine is a miserable, incredibly dangerous,

and thankless job. When Dorsey sings, “Goin’ down, down, down” over and over and over again, we

know he’s going way down in all aspects of his life, much further down than the mine shaft.

7. Your essay should answer the essential reporter’s questions:

8. Who, what, where, why, and how

g. Who wrote the song?

h. What is the song about?

i. Where was it written and/or where was it recorded?

j. WHY was it written?

Surprisingly to me was that neither Toussaint nor Dorsey has ever even been in a coal mine!

Touissant admits that their knowledge of the environment was less than minimal: "We didn’t

know anything about a coal mine" (Wikipedia).

k. How was it written?

9. Provide the lyrics at the end of your essay after the conclusion and a URL link to the

specific performance of the oing you’ve chosen.

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