This, if I’m honest, is a difficult song to sing. It is difficult because it has lots of verses, it is difficult because it is hard not to drift higher as you sing it, but most of all it is difficult because of the subject matter.
It is, as it were, a ‘gallows confession’ of a man who had both been involved in the slave trade and been a pirate. However, in contrast to most naval songs there is no romanticism in the way these are portrayed. It is brutal, uncomfortable and honest.
The song itself I learned from a recording by Ewan MacColl and apparently it was known as something of a test-piece for men who wanted to be considered as singers on ships. If you could impress the crew with your rendition of this song then you earned the right to be a shantyman (More info).
Despite the harsh subject matter it is a fantastic song, I hope you enjoy it!
Lyrics: From memory
Takes: 3 (I’m impressed I got it in as few as that to be honest!)
Download: 15 The Flying Cloud