Sea shanty songs have been written for centuries to describe the emotions of the sailors far away from their homes. Some of the most memorable tunes depict the loneliness of the sea and the passion that sea-faring men have for their adventurous lives. Here are the ten best Sea shanty songs of all time for your enjoyment and consideration.
10. “Spanish Ladies.”
“Spanish Ladies” is an old favorite sea shanty made even more popular when Robert Shaw sang several refrains aboard the Orca in the blockbuster hit film “Jaws.” The Longest Johns revived the song going back in traceable history to 1769. It’s an old traditional song that has been around for more than two hundred years.
9. “Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her.”
“Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her” is one of the most recognizable sea shanties in the world today. That is thanks to its play on the popular video game “Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag (OST).” Sean Dagher, Michiel Schrey, and Nils Brown perform the song. It is Ubisoft Music produced and copyrighted the tune since 2021.
8. “Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmate.”
According to Wikipedia, “don’t Forget Your Old Shipmate” is an old traditional sea shanty first recorded in 1908 in “Naval Songs and Ballads” by Charles Harding Firth. The song has evolved through the years. They modified it for use in the film “Master and Commander.” Jerry Bryand and Starboard Mess perform this particular version of the song. “Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmate dates back to the Napoleonic era, sung by British Royal Navy sailors.
7. “Blow The Man Down.”
“Blow The Man Down” is an old sea shanty performed by The Longest Johns most recently, in their “Bones In The Ocean” album. Umpqua River Haven explains that the term we use so often originates from the telling of tales as alluded to in the lyrics, and it refers to the tragedy of being shanghaied and forced into servitude on a pirate or other type of sailing vessel. The tune is so catchy that hearing it once or twice will lodge it firmly in your brain. You’ll catch yourself singing the iconic lyrics. It’s a song sung by sailors for decades.
6. “Roll Northumbria.”
According to Genius, “Roll Northumbria,” performed by The Dreadnaughts, is a song written about a British oil tanker named the Esso Northumbria. The Northumbria was the nation’s largest ship. It became well known in 1965 when it became a part of the soil crisis that occurred at the Suez canal. The song has long served as a tribute to the Esso Northumbria. It talks about the beginning of the ship’s glory. It takes us through its building to the trek across the water that would lead it to the crisis that lay ahead. “Roll Northumbria” is a sea shanty with more meaning to those familiar with the ship’s history.
5. “Song of The Vikings: My Mother Told Me.”
Scandinavian Archaeology is an ancient song that originated in the ninth century. Scandinavian archeologists discovered it in old Norse form. The tune offers a perspective on venturing across the seas during the Viking age of Norway. It was made famous by the hit television series “Vikings.” The song is now one of the most easily recognized sea shanties in the world today. The tune evolved through many different forms and interpretations. It’s been around in some form for many centuries.
4. “Lowlands Away.”
“Lowlands Away” is another sea shanty heard on the popular video game “Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.” The origins are a bit sketchy, but it is believed to have originated as a traditional Scottish ballad around the seventeenth century. Its more certain connection is to the nineteenth century after it evolved as a sea shanty for sailors traveling to the Americas, originally from African American culture.
3. “Roll The Old Chariot Along,”
This song is also known as “A Drop of Nelson’s Blood”. “Roll The Old Chariot Along is an African American song that has evolved into several versions, but the message is the same. It’s based on a Scottish reel and was sung in Georgia’s Dismal Swamp region, alluding to Nelson’s Blood, which is brandy. They put Nelson in a cask of brandy upon his death. The act was to preserve the body for its journey home to London. The crew drank the brandy on the voyage home.
2. “The Cruel Wars.”
“The Cruel Wars,” is a traditional folk song. The Dreadnoughts is the brand that has revived the song to make it popular. the song is based on the old “High Germany” folk song with its roots that date back to the year 1780 during the Seven Years War.
1. “Roll Boys Roll!”
“Roll Boys Roll!” is yet another sea shanty popularized as a predominant song in the video game “Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.” Its origins go back to possibly the Caribbean or England. It’s not known for sure but the name Sally Brown, who is a cheerful woman of mixed ancestry is the girl that sailors attempt to have their fun with. The song has been expressed in multiple variations throughout the years, but it’s one of the most easily recognized sea shanty in modern times.