Old Timey Tuesdays*! Leaving of Liverpool
Oh, how we've wanted to do a sea shanty. Tyler and I collaborated on an adaptation of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" a couple years ago, and through that process our love of sea shanties deepened and grew.
I should say that "Leaving of Liverpool" is not a true sea shanty. It falls under the larger title of maritime music, and thus is now considered a sea shanty. BUT a true sea shanty is actually a work song used to create a rhythm amongst a group that is physically laboring. One of my favorites is "Blood Red Roses." Sting, of all people, has created one of the finest versions of that song. You can find it here. Hear the rhythm of the song, the call and response, and you can nearly see the sailors securin' the riggin' on an old ship. Well. I can, anyway...
It actually makes sense. Sting grew up among working class sailors and dock workers in England. He wrote a musical called The Last Ship (that I thoroughly enjoyed). There are, in fact, folk music nerds anywhere you want to look. You just need to know what you are looking for.
We will do a true sea shanty sometime. I have a few in mind, actually. But for today, we give you "Leaving of Liverpool." "Leaving of Liverpool," like many folk songs, is a goodbye song. There are many versions of the lyrics. I decided to use less location-based lyrics and focus more on the relationship between the narrator and his "own true love". You might hear other versions that say, "Farewell to Prince's Landing Stage/ River Mersey Fare thee well/I am bound for California/To a place I know right well".
This song dates to around 1865-1870 depending on the source. We do know there WAS a ship called the Davy Crockett helmed by a captain named Burgess, and by all accounts he was probably an SOB.
You'll note an Irish tone to our video. "Leaving of Liverpool", while speaking of the British seaport, actually found a home in Irish pub culture, so we wanted to make sure we acknowledged that aspect of the song.
Thanks for spending a little bit of your Tuesday with us. We'd love to see you at our shows coming in August at Steppenwolf's new Lookout Theatre. Tickets are available here.
*On Old Timey Tuesdays we feature old North American folk, bluegrass, country, blues, ballads, and work songs we love. Some we grew up singin'. Some we've discovered along the way. These songs don't appear in our live shows. But we love them too much not to play them. We hope you love them too.
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Got an old timey tune you love? We'd love to hear about it! Share in the comments below. Who knows? We may even give it the She's Folks spin on a future Old Timey Tuesday!