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Looking For A Good Sea Shanty


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#19 ldpaulson

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 11:02 AM

Are there any shanties or tunes written from the perspective of a cabin boy or child -- either going away from home or having a father leave?? That would be something children might relate to.

I like "Rolling Down to Maui" and the hornpipes. I know these are more modern, but what about "The Sloop John B" ? We learned that in school. Or "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Turns out the "fifteen men on a dead man's chest is from a 1901 Broadway musical based on Treasure Island!

I also did a quick poke around the web using Google. The site here might be a useful resource.

Best of luck!

#20 JimLucas

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 11:38 AM

Are there any shanties or tunes written from the perspective of a cabin boy or child -- either going away from home or having a father leave?? That would be something children might relate to.

From the nit-picking perspective, I think you're talking about ballads -- songs that tell stories, -- not necessarily "shanties", which strictly speaking are the songs sailors used to coordinate their actions during a rhythmic task.

Off hand, I can't think of any songs from the perspective of children, though there are plenty from the perspectives both of abandoned women and of sailors who were either shanghaied or misled into a position they were unhappy with.

The two I can think of that may come the closest are Sam's Gone Away ("I wish I were a cabin boy/cook/first mate/etc. on board a man o' war") and Dance to Your Daddy, which promises treats to a child when his father returns (but the father is a fisherman, not a whaler, long-haul sailor, navy man, or pirate).

I like "Rolling Down to Maui" and the hornpipes. I know these are more modern,...

Actually, I don't think they are. Rolling Down to Old Maui is about whaling, and I believe it dates from the heyday of Pacific whaling. The use of hornpipes in the British navy predates the discovery that citrus fruits (which contain vitamin C) could prevent scurvy, though the particular hornpipe tunes that are popular today may be quite different from those that were common back then.

...but what about "The Sloop John B" ?

A fine song, though not related to either pirates or the big square riggers where shanties were commonly used.

Or "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

One of many great songs about maritime disasters, and there are many about things other than ships sinking. The Great Lakes may not be ocean, but their size gives their sailors significant kinship with ocean sailors.

I also did a quick poke around the web using Google. The site here  might be a useful resource.

One of many. :)

#21 ldpaulson

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 03:17 PM

Hullo Jim:

I can plainly see I should try to write after I've awakened and been caffenated properly.

I wasn't sure if any of the shanties did discuss remembrances of running away to be a cabin boy or that sort of thing. Lots of sadness and woe about being press-ganged ... and lots of bawdy behavior. I was trying to think of appropriate material -- be they shanties OR tunes of any sort -- and coming up empty because of the frequent subject matter of grog and ladies : )

The mention of liking "Rolling Down to Maui" and the hornpipes should have stood alone. The "I know these are more modern,..." went with "The Sloop John B" and "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." I was trying to think of songs we sang in school with nautical themes other than the much sung "Popeye" theme and its many variations.

One of the challenges in coming up with a program for children of school age is being sure the material can't be questioned by parents. This covers the usual stuff, but when choosing material for the program I helped give, we were advised against anything to do with devils, witchcraft, witches, etc. Ghosts were OK. And nothing too religious.

ldp

#22 JimLucas

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 05:00 PM

One of the challenges in coming up with a program for children of school age is being sure the material can't be questioned by parents.

That makes it hard, doesn't it?
Often what one parent won't tolerate another will demand.

I try to be careful with children in the audience, but I bristle at "adults" who try to pretend that their 16-year-olds don't understand the things that their 6-year-olds clearly do. Sometimes before I do a song which may be suggestive, though not explicit, I'll say, "If your kids don't understand, then there's no harm done; and if they do understand, then I am not the one that did the 'harm'."

This covers the usual stuff, but when choosing material for the program I helped give, we were advised against anything to do with devils, witchcraft, witches, etc.

A lot of the good old ballads have magic as a central element, though it might not be obvious to a modern audience (the "false knight on the road" as the personification of the Devil) or has been diluted to something non-magical (in the modern versions of Molly Bawn -- or Polly Von -- the girl has her white apron wrapped about her and is mistaken for a swan, but the original is based on a belief that women could use witchcraft to turn themselves into birds to spy on their men; i.e., she actually was a swan).

Ghosts were OK.

Among sea-related songs there's the one about the pregnant girl abandoned by the sailor "father", who commits suicide, and then her ghost sails to his ship and forces the captain to hand over the guilty sailor, who is then dragged down to Hell.

And nothing too religious.

Hmm. I wonder how religious is too religious, and whether it depends on which religiion. To my own parents, even a line such as "the course was sure as hell" would have been "swearing", akin to blasphemy. (As you may guess, I don't feel the same way.)

#23 ldpaulson

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 01:49 AM

Yes, Jim, to use a sea-fearing analogy, singing or presenting material to children is akin to sailing between Scylla and Charrbdis. Some stuff is too secular, some too religious or too religious of the wrong religion ... etc.

Now that I think about it, it's no wonder all the arts programs have been cut if teachers, adjuncts or volunteers are in imminent danger of being charged with corrputing virginal minds (or teaching them to think)!

I just flashed on this... we used to sing "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night ALL THE TIME in grade school. It would probably get some poor choral teacher fired in today's environment. I can just hear some parent now ... "You helped the bullfrog drink WHAT?"

ldp

#24 lildogturpy

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Posted 28 February 2004 - 11:14 AM

Last Sunday we had a request for a "song about pirates" from a 12 year old and we responded with "My name is Captain Kidd" which has a great tune. If you want a shanty for younger kids, who may not see all the innuendo you could try "Haul 'er away" I'll put the lyrics here and if you want the tune I can supply it. Might sound fun with all the kids singing "Haul er away" which is all they'd have to learn. My question about this as a working song wolud be - would the sailors be pulling during the "Haul er Away" or when they weren't singing? Looking over the lyrics again you might want to leave out little Winnie Ducket :o

Haul 'er Away

Little Daisy Dawson
Haul 'Er Away!
She's got flannel drawers on
Haul 'Er Away!
So says our ol' bosun
Haul 'Er Away!
With a hauley high-O!
Haul 'Er Away!

Little Sally Racket
She's pawned my best jacket
And she's lost the ticket.

Little Betty Baker
Ran off with a Quaker
Guess her mum could shake 'er.

Little Susie Skinner
Says she's a beginner
But prefers it to 'er dinner.

Little Flo Fanana
Slipped on a banana
Now she can't play the pianner.

Little Rosie Riddle
Broke her brand new fiddle
Got a hole right in the middle.

Little Polly Walker
Ran off with a hawker
Oh, he was a corker.

Little Kitty Carson
Ran off with a parson
Now she has a little barson.

Little Winnie Duckett
Washes in a bucket
She's a whore but she don't look it.

Up me fightin' cocks, now
Up and split them blocks, now.
Up and stretch 'er luff boys
And that'll be enough, boys.

Recorded by Killen, 50 South to 50 South




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