New! Read & write lyrics explanations
  • Highlight lyrics and explain them to earn Karma points.

(Merle Travis)

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store



Lyrics taken from http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/tennessee_ernie_ford/sixteen_tons.html

Correct | Report

Please input the reason why these lyrics are bad:

songmeanings

  • k
    +5
    Karen SpenceNov 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm
    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.
  • U
    +2
    UnregisteredAug 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm
    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.
  • U
    +1
    UnregisteredApr 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm
    Back in the day when trains abd all ran on coal they needed alot of coal. The big business men didnt 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 thats how they became in debt thats 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. Thats 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.
  • U
    0
    UnregisteredMar 31, 2012 at 6:41 pm
    It's hard for working people to get by and man must work. The singer's talent and bravado and understanding can be displayed to others through work when he chooses to show it in order to prove that he is and has always been more than a man who must work.
  • U
    -2
    UnregisteredApr 7, 2014 at 6:30 pm
    This is about an aggressive hard headed dumb miner. This is probably Big John's song before the mine collapsed.
    He says a poor man is made out of muscle and blood. Muscle to load coal and to draw blood from the men he beats up in the bar on Saturday nights. A mind that's weak and a back that's strong. Weak minded men devote their time to hard labor, hard drinking, whoring and gambling. For this they pride themselves of having strong backs.
    He was born in squalor and his mother would take a cane to break him, that's what a canebrake is and the mama lion is his whisky swilling mama in the squalor of a mining village.
    His upbringing made him hard and tough as nails. Nobody crossed his path even looked at him twice for fear of being struck down with a crashing blow from a big right or left hand.
    Nothing was left for provisions after his gambling and drinking so he had to purchase these provisions on credit and therefore was in deep debt to the company store. That was why he had to load 16 tons and just get deeper in debt.

    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.
    U
    Unregistered
    Min 50 words
    Not bad
    Good
    Awesome!
    Explain

    Write an explanation

    Your explanation
    Add image by pasting the URLBoldItalicLink
    10 words
    Good
    Cool
    Awesome!
    Explanation guidelines:
    • Describe what artist is trying to say in a certain line, whether it's personal feelings, strong statement or something else.
    • Provide song facts, names, places and other worthy info that may give readers a perfect insight on the song's meaning.
    • Add links, pictures and videos to make your explanation more appealing. Provide quotes to support the facts you mention.
    Before you get started, be sure to check out these explanations created by our users: good, very good, great.
    ×