|“||For the man that invented that steam drill
Thought he was mighty fine;
John Henry sunk a fo'teen foot,
The steam drill only made nine,
The steam drill only made nine.
John Henry was a steel-driving man in the 19th century, noted for being one of the best in the country (if not the world). He was highly respected by his fellow railmen. Not to mention the Autobots.
IDW Hearts of Steel continuity
Around the year 1867, John Henry's hammering awoke Bumblebee from millennia of stasis lock, and Bumblebee was inspired by him to take the form of a steel-driving locomotive. Henry initially resented the automated "steam drill" as a piece of job-stealing automation. Bumblebee then approached him in robot mode, and explained that he merely wanted to perform a useful function. Now that Henry saw Bumblebee as a person, he respected his work ethic, and they became close friends. When Bumblebee announced that he and the Autobots were leaving to battle the Decepticons, Henry promptly insisted on coming along, too. He participated in the high-speed battle against the New York-bound Astrotrain, playing a key role in the Autobots' victory.
The John Henry myth
The John Henry of real-world folklore did not have the good fortune to encounter intelligent, friendly machinery. He competed with a mechanical steam drill, and though he won the contest, he fell dead of a heart attack afterwards. His story is considered a cautionary tale about the implacability of uncaring mechanical progress. The contrast of the myth with the Hearts of Steel story of his bonding with Bumblebee (The steam driver in question) is thus high irony, though not unwelcome.