Personification of barley and the alcohol within, doubling for a strong recipe for ale. There's more variations of this song than of any English folk tune. Numerous broadside versions circulate since the 17th century, while it was first published in the Bannatyne Manuscript (1568). It was also the title of a Jack London novel (1913), commenting his battle against booze. When Prohibition was installed in the US, John Barleycorn was symbolically buried during meetings organized by Billy Sunday (of the song Chicago fame).
Mr. Biles [from Dorset on 78rpm]
Jane Hexly & The Hood Singers [English a cappella field recording conducted by Jean Ritchie as John Barleycorn Should Die]
Shepherd Haden [50 years since he started singing it]
Brendan Behan [as 3 Farmers From The North]
Traffic [on album John Barleycorn Must Die; inspired by The Watersons]
Frank Black [as Johnny Barleycorn]
Paul Weller [with Martin & Eliza Carthy]