Don't Pay the Ferryman
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|"Don't Pay the Ferryman"|
|Single by Chris de Burgh|
|from the album The Getaway|
|Genre||Hard rock, art rock|
|Songwriter(s)||Chris de Burgh|
AllMusic critic Sharon Mawer states the song has become "a standard art rock classic" and one of de Burgh's most frequently played songs on radio, despite not reaching the Top 40 on its original UK release.
The song tells the story of a man who boards a ferryboat and sets off. A storm approaches and the ferryman demands payment. The song's narrator warns the passenger not to pay the ferryman until the boat arrives at its destination on the other side.
The repetitive lyrics are believed to have a connection with mythology. The song describes the ferryman as "the hooded old man at the rudder", and seems to connect to the classic image of the Grim Reaper, a hooded being (usually a skeleton) who leads lost souls to "the other side", also a lyric in the song. The ferryman demanding his payment is also similar to the Greek ferryman of the dead, Charon. He demanded an obolus (coin) to ferry dead souls across the River Styx. Those who did not pay were doomed to remain as ghosts, remaining on the plane of the mare, the restless dead.
- BOATSWAIN: I'd strive to tell you. We were dead of sleep
- And (how we know not) all clapp'd under hatches;
- Where, but even now, with strange and several noises
- Of roaring, shrieking, howling, jingling chains,
- And moe diversity of sounds, all horrible,
- We were awak'd; straightway at liberty;
- Where we, in all her trim, freshly beheld
- Our royal, good, and gallant ship;
This section of the song is omitted from the version of the song released as a single, which is approximately 20 seconds shorter than the album version.
The music video for "Don't Pay the Ferryman" was directed by Maurice Phillips.
It became Chris de Burgh's first UK hit single almost eight years into his recording career when it entered the chart on 23 October 1982 and peaked at number 48, staying on the chart for five weeks. In 1983, the single reached number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. It was a major hit on the Australian Kent Music Report chart, where it reached the Top 5 and spent 25 weeks in the Top 100.
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||5|
|UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)||48|
|US Billboard Hot 100||34|
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||36|
In 2006 the movie The Ferryman starring John Rhys-Davies utilised the original version of this song for the credits. Also in 2006 the band Domain covered "Don't Pay the Ferryman" on their album Stardawn.
- Mawer, Sharon. "Now and Then – Chris de Burgh". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
- "Chris De Burgh: Don't Pay the Ferryman (1982)". IMDb. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- David Roberts. British Hit Singles & Albums. Guinness World Records Limited
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications)
- "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 Singles 1983". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- BigKev. "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
- "Trailer Park Boys Transcripts". Transcripts.Foreverdreaming.org. Retrieved 25 February 2017.