[–] cynicaloldfart 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

This was written in 1947 by the Country & Western guitarist and songwriter Merle Travis. It is based on the experiences of his coal-mining family. His brother, John Travis, wrote him a letter about the death of Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent who had just been killed covering combat. John likened Pyle's job to that of a coal miner, writing: "It's like working in the coal mines. You load 16 tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." Merle incorporated his brother's words into the chorus.

Merle also remembered something his father once said about the practice of paying miners in "scrip," credit vouchers that could only be used at the company-owned general store. He told a neighbor, "I can't afford to die. I owe my soul to the general store," inspiring the lyrics:

"Saint Peter don't you call me, 'cause I can't go I owe my soul to the company store"

A reference to the truck system and to debt bondage. Under this scrip system, workers were not paid cash; rather they were paid with non-transferable credit vouchers which could be exchanged only for goods sold at the company store. This made it impossible for workers to store up cash savings. Workers also usually lived in company-owned dormitories or houses, the rent for which was automatically deducted from their pay. In the United States the truck system and associated debt bondage persisted until the strikes of the newly formed United Mine Workers and affiliated unions forced an end to such practices.

On March 25, 2015, Ford's version of the song was inducted into the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry.

The song has been recorded or performed in concert by a wide variety of musicians. Here's just a few notable ones:

1955: Sung live by Elvis Presley in his early 1950s concerts, but never recorded. 1955: B.B. King & His Orchestra 1957: The Platters recorded the song 1960: Bo Diddley released a version on his album Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger 1966: Stevie Wonder recorded a version influenced by Motown and soul music 1973: Jerry Reed recorded a version 1987: Johnny Cash released a country version 1990: A rendition of the song by Eric Burdon 2014: ZZ Top performed the song on their tour with Jeff Beck.

[–] AmaleksHairyAss 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

I value songs like this because they contain a bit of history we should never forget.

[–] antiliberalsociety 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

Best sung as a barber shop quartet

[–] derram 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

https://invidio.us/watch?v=E5VMZqgVzRo :

SIXTEEN TONS - Tennesse Ernie Ford w/ Lyrics - YouTube

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[–] ElectricCanabull 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

Small World