Johnny Cash, “Sixteen Tons,” Music Video

“Sixteen Tons” is a popular song about the hardships faced by coal miners that was first written and recorded by Merle Travis in 1946, and then subsequently performed by many others, including Tennessee Ernie Ford, The Weavers, and Johnny Cash (accompanying video). Merle Travis was from Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, where many of his family members were coal miners. Key lines in “Sixteen Tons” about the increasing indebtedness of the miner to the company store reportedly came from Travis’s brother and father, who were coal miners..

Why do you think this song struck a nerve in American popular culture in the post-WWII period?

In what ways does it capture the experience of miners revealed in the other primary sources?