‘A Gift to Humanity’

 

If we are to be unified, then we must be able and willing to share life. Bill Whittle and company offer a timely reminder of the tremendous good that social media can achieve when people are free to associate across boundaries and to enjoy life together as fellows.

I was unaware of this shanty’s sudden popularity until a fellow Ricochet member recorded a version of it. Almost ten years ago, the only shanty I had heard was the brief bit of “Spanish Ladies” sung in the movie Jaws. Then a popular pirate fantasy (Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag) introduced millions of gamers to several, including “Leave Her, Johnny” and “Drunken Sailor.” Trivial pleasures and such mutual interests often lay the first stones of friendship.

While helping to test another pirate game, Sea of Thieves, I wrote my own shanty (not yet recorded) and would like to echo Whittle’s sentiment. The songs I make are for anyone and everyone who enjoys them. If people very unlike myself appreciate anything I have to offer, then I am grateful for that bond. If something in my tastes or values limits my song’s appeal, then I can remain proud of my work yet hope that some future project will bridge that divide. Trying to please all is a fool’s errand. But to please only oneself is also foolish.

Before shanties on TikTok, there were singing flash mobs on YouTube and Facebook. Such joyful group activities seem rare these days apart from social media.

It’s a shame and perhaps a mystery that tavern singing has faded from American life. Apart from a handful of Christian hymns, usually set around Christmas, Americans share few songs not composed in the 20th century. Still, one might occasionally happen into a bar or party where people enjoy singing those pop songs together.

Perhaps, how cultures are constructed is not how they are reconstructed. If a civilization’s entertainment first emerges as a privilege after essentials are secured, entertainment might ultimately prove essential to reclaiming common values by renewing interest in our neighbors and devotion to them. If people want to live together because of joyful experiences they share, those shallow interests can lead to deeper interests and debates. One will tolerate more meaningful disagreement among friends than among enemies.

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  1. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    Aaron Miller: It’s a shame and perhaps a mystery that tavern singing has faded from American life.

    It’s not all that mysterious. There exist mechanical devices to spare us the effort of singing ourselves. Yeah, it’s less rewarding. How many portrait painters do you know, this despite the fact that portraits are more valuable than photos?

    • #1
  2. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    Also, jumping into this sea shanties thing with both feet. It’s fun.

    • #2
  3. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    A capital ship for an ocean trip was the Walloping Window Blind.

    No wind that blew dismayed her crew nor troubled the captain’s mind.

    The man at the wheel was made to feel contempt for the wildest blo-o-oow,

    Though it often appeared when the gale had cleared

    That he’s been in his bunk below.

    OOOh! Blow ye winds Hi-ho!  A roving I will go.

    I’ll stay no more on England’s shore so let the music pla-a-ay.

    I’m off to my love with a boxing glove ten thousand miles away!

    (Now that’s a sea chanty.)

     

    • #3
  4. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Here is the call-and-response shanty I wrote for the pirate game Sea of Thieves. The “—–” mark instrumental breaks between verses. I call it “Heave Ho” and was pleased when the game composer Robin Beanland gave it his approval. 

    heave ho! heave ho!
    fetch up the lines and raise the stone
    heave ho! heave ho!
    unfurl the sails and let her go
    arrgh, aye! arrgh, aye!
    chase the wind and plead the sky
    arrgh, aye! arrgh, aye!
    we probably will sail until we die

    heave ho! heave ho!
    what do you see from up high, crow?
    heave ho! heave ho!
    nothing but blue and sailors old
    hold now! hold now!
    i see a ship afore the prow
    cannons now! cannons now!
    sing ’em a surly thunder, how!

    —–

    heave all! heave all!
    we’ll chase ’em through the blackest squall
    heave all! heave all!
    boom! and crack! and crash! and snap!
    heave, yell! heave, yell!
    iron forged harder than hell
    heave, yell! heave, yell!
    ye got to live to tell the tale

    —–

    kraken ho! kraken ho!
    man the cannons! give it all!
    kraken ho! kraken ho!
    we barely scratched the beast! where did it go?
    captain, fly! captain, fly!
    but i can see its evil eye!
    captain, fly! captain, fly!
    probably will chase until we die

    —–

    gold ho! gold ho!
    every man will swim in gold!
    no gold! no gold!
    bury the captain in the bloody hold!
    arrgh, aye! arrgh, aye!
    none survives the empty prize
    arrgh, aye! arrgh, aye!
    we probably will sail until we die

    • #4
  5. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    • #5
  6. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    • #6
  7. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    we probably will sail until we die

    That word “probably” rubs me wrong. Seems like it doesn’t fit the vernacular. Still, I can’t seem to improve on your lyric.

    • #7
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    we probably will sail until we die

    That word “probably” rubs me wrong. Seems like it doesn’t fit the vernacular. Still, I can’t seem to improve on your lyric.

    You got me curious. It seems “probably” goes back to the 16th century. The abbreviated “prolly” wasn’t written until the 20th century. If there’s a sailor variant, I don’t recall.

    • #8
  9. HankRhody Freelance Philosopher Contributor
    HankRhody Freelance Philosopher
    @HankRhody

    • #9
  10. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    My first exposures to sea chanties is a little offbeat.  My mother, whose parents emigrated from Germany to New York once bought an album of German sea chanties when I was a little boy.  Or maybe English sea chanties sung in German.

    She’d play the album and sing along on the household’s HiFi player.

    • #10
  11. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Lovely post, thanks so much.  I had no idea.

    I love sea shanties/chanties (yeah. I know.  Just another bit of cognitive dissonance).  I’m particularly fond of Evans and Doherty, a duo from Maritime Canada who have quite a few sea songs in their repertoire.  One of my favorites, from the linked album, is “John Kanaka.”  I can’t find it sung by them on YouTube, so here’s an alternative.

    The first time I heard Evans and Doherty sing it, I liked it so much that I looked it up, and found that the name, “John Kanaka,” represents the much respected Hawaiian Pacific sailors who contributed so much to the seafaring tradition.

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  12. Chris Oler Coolidge
    Chris Oler
    @ChrisO

    https://babylonbee.com/news/hip-worship-band-switches-to-sea-shanties

    • #12
  13. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    The way I learned it, 55 or 60 years ago was “Put him a longboat til he’s sober.”  Other than that, it’s pretty much as I remember it.  Do you have access to Donkey Riding?

    • #13
  14. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Bill Murray and Christopher Guest from National Lampoon 45 years ago.  I guess they were onto something:

    (My god, I’ve been humming that song for 45 years??!)

    • #14