How Much for the Life of a Miner?

from by Anne Feeney

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I wrote this song for Jerry Starr's play - BURIED: THE STORY OF THE SAGO MINE DISASTER. When the methane exploded in the Sago mine on January 7, 2006 one miner died instantly. Twelve others were trapped inside the mine. Their families waited anxiously in the community church as teams tried to effect a rescue. As the hours went by, their fear and anxiety increased. In the meadow below the church, company officials had set up a communications center in an RV. The news finally arrived - ONE DEAD -TWELVE ALIVE!!! The company dispatched a messenger to the church to convey the glad tidings to the families. They prayed, cried, rejoiced and hugged each other.

Meanwhile, back at command central, they realized there had been a communication mixup. In actual fact, one miner was barely alive and the other twelve miners had slowly asphyxiated in the terrible air and perished in the mine. Instead of notifying the families of this hideous mistake, managment reps stayed in the RV, trying to figure out how to "spin" the story.

The heartlessness of management prompted Jerry to write his powerful play, which was performed with professional union actors at several locations during 2007.


You’ve heard “Sixteen Tons” and “The Coal Tattoo”
In the coalfield danger is nothing new
Here’s the question I’m putting to you
‘How much for the life of a miner?’
It should come as no surprise
That every time a miner dies
You’ll hear them spout the same old lies
How much for the life of a miner?

Somewhere far away from here accountants will project
Actuaries speculate on causes and effect
No pesky regulations from the thieves that they elect
And auditor confirm the yield from their benign neglect

Each state has a price for a leg that’s lost
Lose an arm or an ear – there’s a preset cost
When the air goes bad and there’s no exhaust
How much for the life of a miner?
A slap on the wrist or even a fine
Reversed on appeal on down the line
“An act of God,” the courts opine.
How much for the life of a miner?

Politicians posture at the mine face solemnly
Live reporters swarm like flies around the tragedy
Preachers will proclaim the Lord behaves mysteriously
And PR spokesmen orchestrate deniability
And then their widows, sons and daughters come to you and me
And ask “How much for the life of a miner?
How much for the life of a miner?”


from War on the Workers a Tribute to Anne Feeney, released December 28, 2016
© Anne Feeney (BMI)
Performed by Emma’s Revolution
Sandy O- Vocal & guitar:
Pat Humphries- Vocal & banjo
James McVay- Slide guitar
Gary Mankin- Bass
Arrangement by Sandy O & Pat Humphries
Recorded & mixed by Gary Mankin at Knob & Tube, San Francisco CA



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Anne Feeney Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Anne Feeney is a front-line singer and agitator well-versed in the traditions of Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs and Tom Lehrer.

She's taken her musical message all over the US and Canada as well as Sweden and Denmark.

Based in Pittsburgh, PA, For almost 50 years, Anne has gone to wherever the fires of resistance burn brightly, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
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