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The Rabbit Ears series of radio teleplays of classic folk tales, which I believe was originally produced for NPR, is uniformly terrific. Besides presenting literate and accessible versions of these stories for kids, Rabbit Ears uses famous narrators, mostly actors and comedians, and popular musicians to accompany them, enabling adults to thoroughly enjoy them too.
Among the best is John Henry, the great legend of the steel-driving hero who battled and beat a steam drill before dying "with a hammer in his hand", as told by Denzel Washington with music by B.B. King. It goes almost without saying that Washington and King do a great job, but, of course, the real magic lies in the story itself. Based on a purportedly historical figure, who worked on digging the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia for the C & O Railroad, the legend of John Henry stands for the quintessential American value of the indomitability of the human spirit and the capacity of the individual to accomplish the extraordinary. It also highlights the undercurrent of Luddism that has characterized the West's uneasy relationship with machines and our recurring fear that they will make humankind obsolete.
But heck, kids won't care about any of that stuff and the cultural import won't even be at the forefront of adult minds. Listeners will simply be enthralled by an amusing tall tale brilliantly told. Highly recommended for car rides.
See also:Audio Books
-Lyrics : John Henry
-Steel Drivin' Man : A Radio Documentary (Ginna Allison)
-John Henry - The Steel Driving Man
-JOHN HENRY A BALLAD
-The Story of John Henry - Storytelling: The Web Site
-John Henry Park : A Community Project of the Hilldale - Talcott Ruritan Club
-John Henry and the Inky-Poo (1946) (George Pal Puppetoon Site)
-DISCUSSION : The origins of John Henry (Mudcat Cafe)
DENZEL WASHINGTON :