Add Explanation
Add Meaning
New! Read & write lyrics explanations
  • Click the blue-colored lyrics to read explanations.
  • Highlight lyrics and explain them to earn Karma points.
Tennessee Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons lyrics

Lyrics taken from

  • Email
  • Correct

songmeaningsPost my meaning

  • k
    Karen Spence
    There was a time when companies didn't pay its employees cash, but instead a voucher to buy their goods and necessities that a store the company owned would offer. Most, if not all employees weren't given enough voucher credits to afford all they needed so they would ring up debt for the difference and would then have to pay it back by continuing to work. It kept the companies owning them for life because they could never really work it off, not to mention they had no money to buy things like homes, cars, etc. It was a terrible system. Now the banks do the same in many ways as others have mentioned here.
    Add your reply
  • u
    It means that no matter how good or how hard you work, or how smart you are- it will never be enough to get out of that hole that's been dug for you. It means that the wealthy always win and the workers won't even get to die to escape their debt. I fear it's our future and our past. My dad used to sing it to me and I thought he was just being a sour puss. He was smarter than I gave him credit. I looked it up because I'm thinking of the next election.
    Add your reply
  • u
    Number nine coal refers to a particular seam of coal of Kentuckian minefields that is at a medium depth (the seams in Kentucky are numbered from the shallower n. 13 to the deepest n.1). Usually the depth of a coal seam is associated with higher degrees of metamorphism and therefore higher hardness (so it is more hard work extracting it) and more energy content per unit of mass (therefore it is more valuable on the market).

    In the verse "I loaded sixteens tons of number nine coal" the singer condenses the hard and valuable work he did.
    Add your reply
  • u
    Back in the day when trains abd all ran on coal they needed alot of coal. The big business men didn't pay men that mined it well and the only store around was run by the company with things extremly overpriced. They used credit in the stores and that's how they became in debt that's why he owes his soul to the company store. Well sixteen tons is what they expected a man to mine in one day. No matter how much he mined or hard work he put forward it was never enough plus credit piling up and he was a rough man. That's the story behind it the meaning is that the big businesses will always take advantage of the little man, no matter how tough he is.
    1 reply
  • u
    These days, of course, we're so much more enlightened. Now we don't owe our souls to the company store, instead we owe them to the bank that owns the company. As the French say "Plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme chose". So come on America. Get behind Bernie, and let's change the world for the better.
    Add your reply

    Write about your feelings and thoughts

    Know what this song is about? Does it mean anything special hidden between the lines to you? Share your meaning with community, make it interesting and valuable. Make sure you've read our simple tips.
    Min 50 words
    Not bad
    This page is missing some information about the song. Please expand it to include this information. You can help by uploading artist's image or adding song structure elements.



    [an error occurred while processing the directive]