Sea Lion Woman

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"Sea Lion Woman" (also "Sea-Line Woman", "See [the] Lyin' Woman", "She Lyin' Woman", "See-Line Woman", or "C-Line Woman") is a traditional American folk song originally used as a children's playground song.[1]

The exact origins of the song are unknown but it is believed to have originated in the southern United States. According to Tom Schnabel of KCRW [1], he was told that Nina Simone’s “See-line Woman” is a 19th-century seaport song about sailors and prostitutes. The sailors would come into port (such as Charleston or New Orleans) and women of the pleasure quarters would be lined up along the dock, hence the term 'Sea line' (a line of women by the sea) or alternatively, 'See-line' (women standing in a line to be seen). Their dress colors signified the specific delights they offered.

The song was first recorded by folklore researcher Herbert Halpert on May 13, 1939.[2] Halpert was compiling a series of field recordings for the Library of Congress in Byhalia, MS, when he ran across Walter Shipp, a minister, and his wife Mary, a choir director of a local church. Halpert recorded Shipp's daughters, Katharine and Christeen, singing a spare version of "Sea Lion Woman" that defined the basic rhymes and rhythm of the song.

Notable covers include a version by Nina Simone (1964) under the name "See-Line Woman", Ollabelle's version featured on the 2006 album Riverside Battle Songs under the name "See Line Woman" and Feist's cover featured on the 2007 album The Reminder. The Easybeats also recorded it, the song closing their 1967 album Friday on My Mind. A version remixed by Greg Hale Jones and Russell Ziecker entitled "She Began to Lie", contains extracts from the original traditional song performed by the Shipp sisters and was used on the soundtrack of the 1999 feature film The General's Daughter.[3]


Sea Lion Woman (Sea Lion)s
She drank coffee (Sea Lion)
She drank tea (Sea Lion)
And gamble, lie (Sea Lion)
Way down yonder (Sea Lion)
I'm going maul (Sea Lion)
And the rooster crow (Sea Lion)
And he got no lie (Sea Lion)
Sea lion woman (Sea Lion)
She drank coffee (Sea Lion)
She drank tea (Sea Lion)
And gamble, lie (Sea Lion)
Sea lion woman (Sea Lion)
She drank coffee (Sea Lion)
She drank tea (Sea Lion)
And gamble, lie (Sea Lion)

Nina Simone version[edit]

Nina Simone popularized the song as "See-Line Woman" on her 1964 album Broadway-Blues-Ballads. The song was remixed by Masters at Work for the 2002 compilation Verve//Remixed, by J.Viewz in 2008 and by Ogris Debris in 2012. Nina Simone lyrics[4]

See-line woman She drink coffee She drink tea And then go home

See-line woman See-line woman Dressed in green Wears silk stockings With golden seams

See-line woman See-line woman Dressed in red Make a man Lose his head

See-line woman See-line woman Black dress on For a thousand dollars She wail and she moan

See-line woman Wiggle wiggle Turn like a cat Wink at a man And he wink back

Now child See-line woman Empty his pockets And wreck his days Make him love her And she'll fly away

See-line woman Take it on out now Empty his pockets And she wreck his days And she make him love her Then she sure fly away

She got a black dress on For a thousand dollars She wail and she moan


Published by Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Feist version[edit]

"Sea Lion Woman (aka Sealion)"
Digital download by Feist from the album The Reminder
Released 2007
Recorded 2007
Genre Rock
Length 3:39
Label Cherrytree, Interscope, Arts & Crafts
Writer(s) Feist, George Bass, Nina Simone
The Reminder track listing
"The Water"
"Sea Lion Woman (aka Sealion)"
"Past in Present"

The song was covered by Feist on her 2007 album The Reminder. "Sea Lion Woman" is Feist's original title for this song but on the album it was shortened to "Sealion". Despite their version being based on the original lyrics, Feist and Bass were credited as writers for the recording on The Reminder. It charted on the Canadian Hot 100 under the title "Sea Lion Woman".

The Children's song lyrics are:

Sea Lion woman (sea-la) She drinks coffee (sea-la) She drink tea (sea-la) In the candle light (sea-la)

Way down yonder (sea-la) 'Hind a log (sea-la) And the rooster crowed (sea-la) And the gander lied (sea-la)

(Extra verses I've seen but are not on the historic recording by the LIbrary of Congress) See that man (sea-la) Blue shirt on (sea-la) You bettuh leave (sea-la) That man alone (sea-la)

Please be careful (sea-la) What you do (sea-la) Yonder little girl (sea-la) Can get you too (sea-la)

I gotta horse (sea-la) Buggy too (sea-la) House is black (sea-la) And the buggy's blue (sea-la)


"Sea Lion Woman" charted only in Canada through digital downloads.

Chart (2008) Position
Canadian Hot 100[5] 94

Bob Sinclar version[edit]

Nina Simone's "See-Line Women" version of the song was used as a sample by Kanye West on his 2008 album "808s & Heartbreak" for the record "Bad News."

The song was used also used as a sample by Bob Sinclar on his 2013 album Paris By Night (A Parisian Musical Experience) on the track named "Sea Lion Woman". Once again, the sample used in the track is from the 1964 Nina Simone version.


External links[edit]