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Gerry Smyth

Sailor Song

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From the earliest of voyages seafarers have sung, be they homeward bound or rolling in a merciless sea to an unknown horizon. The shouts and cries of these sailors’ shanties provided a musical rhythm to their work and such ‘concerted’ efforts improved efficiency as anchors were raised, sails hoisted, and bilge water pumped. Boredom was allayed, concentration increased, and the stamina-sapping agonies were borne on a melody.

In Sailor Song acclaimed writer, playwright and musician Gerry Smyth presents the words and music of some 40 ‘heaving or hauling’ working shanties and 10 off-duty sea songs and ballads. The meanings and history of each song is revealed alongside thematic sections exploring celebrated shantymen, song types and traditions as well as the influence these songs have had on the folk music movement, rock music and the modern shanty revival.

The volume is illustrated with specially commissioned artworks by popular folk artist Jonny Hannah alongside many previously unpublished artworks from the holdings of the British Library.


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