Tuesday, September 14, 2021

All Aboard!

Folk music, trains, and railroads would hardly exist in this country without one another. Some of the greatest American folk songs of all time can be traced back to the building of the railroads, the advent of train travel, and, of course, the riding of the rails during the Depression—when working class men and immigrants traveled on trains in search of work.

You may know our nation's railroads were built primarily by African-Americans and immigrants (particularly Irish immigrants). It was grueling work made more tolerable by the presence of music (similarly to the way field calls and African-American folk songs developed out of the slave tradition).

In the case of "I've Been Working on the Railroad," the telling line is "...all the livelong day." These men really did back-breaking work beyond the hours of labor now acceptable in our society.

From Crazy Train to Peace Train, songs about trains are still popular today...


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