There aren't many songs about the mining community of Butte, Montana, and even less about their mining forefathers in the early 20th century, but this jaunty but dark shanty is one of them. Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy told UK newspaper The Guardian what inspired him to write about such an unusual subject: "I was reading a lot about the Butte miners in the 19-teens, I had been fascinated by that era and that place since college when I studied labour history, particularly in the west," he explained. "And Butte is fascinating, particularly what happens in a span of 10 years from 1910 to 1920 – they basically go from being one of the most advanced and progressive situations in the industrial world to it all going out the window when the bosses sold the company to Amalgamated Copper."
Meloy was approached about writing a musical at the time he was reading about the miners. "People are constantly asking me to write musicals - it's the cross that I bear," the Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy quipped to Billboard magazine. "I grew up doing theater, so in theory, I would love to write a musical. I don't know if I have the stuff - I always end up just writing little pop songs that stand a better chance on a record than on stage."
Encouraged by Michael Mayer, who directed Green Day's American Idiot musical, Meloy dabbled with the idea of penning a musical about the Butte miners and this song came from the concept.
Jay-Z's 2012 "Glory" features his daughter Blue Ivy Carter's cries and coos. At less than two days old, she became the youngest ever credited artist to feature on a Billboard chart when the song debuted on R&B/Hip-Hop Songs at #74.