“The Ballad of John Henry” (traditional). This mother of protest songs is known variously as “John Henry,” and “The Legend of John Henry”. Developed from a traditional work song or hammer song, the tale of John Henry quintessentially speaks of defiance, protest and perseverance. We have chosen Lead Belly's classic recording from 1939. The song has been recorded by numerous artists through the ages, including Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen among others.