"Sixteen Tons" as written by and 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
Can'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 submitted by FilibusterMan

"Sixteen Tons" as written by Merle Travis

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Sixteen Tons song meanings
Add your thoughts

7 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is about the coal mining indeed. Though laborers in any field can identify with the downtrodden existance of which mister Travis refers; while taking pride in the power the labor gives his body.
    Debt bondage is alive and well.

    "Saint Peter don't you call me cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the Mastercard Gold."
    billybayouon October 04, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Link(s)This song is an all-time classic. It will be covered and played for years to come. My favorite version is by the nighthawks (from The Wire soundtrack):

    youtube.com/…
    Whtlyteninon July 13, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is the working man's anthem! I love this song.
    FilibusterManon March 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit's about coal mining to be specific, but yes. it quite is the working man's anthem
    xJotunxon May 22, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about the coal mining indeed. and about debt bondage. Miners had to spend a certain percent of their wages in the shops owned by the company they worked for. this created an even bigger dependency on the company. These systems of debt bondage (have) existed all over the world.

    "another day older and deeper in debt was a phrase oft used by the original songwriter, Mister Merle Travis.
    JayWalkeron September 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    MemoryIIRC, we discussed this song in one of my History classes in high school. I -think- it was written before Unions were formed and illustrates how bad things could get when businesses could ... I don't remember, pay you crap wages for hard work or something.

    I also remember it because it was one of the songs on that DisneyTV VHS I own that showed clips of Disney cartoons to old songs like "Baby Love." Of course, I didn't get the significance when I was 5, but now it makes me sad for the guys who had to work so hard to survive.
    lunayoshion August 10, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningDoes anyone have any thoughts about the meaning of this verse?

    > 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
    tsuchanon March 07, 2012   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain