October 16, 2010
Fitzgerald Theater

Saint Paul, MN

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John Henry (lyrics)

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When John Henry was a little baby
Sitting on his papa's knee
He took a No. 2 pencil and a yellow legal pad
He said A writer is all I want to be Lord Lord
A writer is all I want to be.

John Henry was an English major
And poetry was his line
And he sat by the window with his yellow legal pad
And he wrote one sentence at a time Lord Lord
He wrote one sentence at a time.

One day the teacher says to John Henry
No more writing by hand
I got a laptop computer with a big hard drive
It can download data like a man Lord Lord
It can download data like a man.

John Henry told his teacher
"I'll challenge your laptop to a test.
I'll take the paper and my good old No. 2
And we'll see who writes it best Lord Lord
We'll see who writes it best.

They sat down and they started to write,
You could hear that laptop fly
John Henry sat with a smile on his face,
I'll write me a sonnet or I'll die, Lord, Lord,
I'll write me a sonnet or I'll die.

The pencil moved on the paper
In iambic pentameter time.
I'm writing fourteen lines from my hips on down,
Listen to the beautiful rhyme, Lord, Lord,
Listen to the beautiful rhyme.


Then the teacher cried out
Because the computer froze
And the pencil keeps going on the yellow page
Steady as she goes, Lord, Lord!
Steady as she goes.

The No. 2 pencil was hot that day
The lead was breathing fire
It wrote a powm about love and death
And memory and desire, Lord Lord
And memory and desire.

All you writers who sit at computers
If you're struggling here's what you do
Put a piece of paper on the table top
And pick up a No. 2, Lord, Lord,
And pick up a No. 2.


Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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