Talk:Sea shanty

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Former featured article candidateSea shanty is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
Article milestones
November 20, 2005Featured article candidateNot promoted
January 8, 2012Good article nomineeNot listed
May 11, 2012Good article nomineeListed
May 15, 2012Good article reassessmentDelisted
May 31, 2012Good article nomineeNot listed
Current status: Former featured article candidate

Origins of the word[edit]

First off, I'm French. Just wanted to let you guys know that the French word "chante" means "song" or "chant" (chant derived from "chante"). Alternatively, "chanter" (or "chantez", in some cases, or "chanté" in others) means "to sing" as in a verb. Also (to mention), "chante" means song, but ALSO is another form (forms, with different spelling) of "chanter". "Chanter", "chantez", and "chanté" all sound identical, just to give you an idea why I said all three. Overall, "chantey" or "shanty" sound VERY similar to the conjugations of "chanter", with the only two differences being the accent and the last two letters. The "er", "ez", or "é", all sound.... well, the only example I can think of is the stereotype "eh" that everyone thinks we (Canadians) say all the time. It's quite similar to that. On the other hand, "chantey" or "shanty" sound with a "eee"; something that often happens when an Englishman (or anyone who speaks English and not French) tries to say "chanter". So basically, I'm just pointing out the VERY OBVIOUS CONNECTION between the French verb "chanter" (meaning "to sing"), and the English noun "Chantey".

PS: Just for those of you who don't know this, we don't have any "sh" in French. Our "ch" makes the same sound as your "sh" does. (talk) 04:06, 13 September 2013 (UTC)

It's fairly obvious that "shanty" is a Brit's understanding of the command "chantez!". I wonder when this will become accepted fact. (talk) 18:40, 12 February 2014 (UTC)

May I just ask, that why, then, after reading the comment above and below that this page has allowed to be printed 'as fact' these things that are utter conjecture and opinion? Also, if this is not the place to debate the 'evidence' then where is? How are we to attribute the most accurate version of the truth if debate is not permitted in the 'talk' section?

I personally disagree with VAST sections of the entire page, and especially the US, Afro-American opinions as well as the outright fabrications surrounding the French and British Royal Navy. The fact that there is not even a single mention of the Dhoby songs gives great cause for concern, as well as the fact that the vast majority of the words, characters and locations given in shanties and chanties are predominantly British....such as the oldest 'recorded' shanty " Cheerily Man ".

I would, therefore, be extremely grateful to see debate opened on this as soon as possible and the facts presented and agreed upon before any one or any two people decide what is to be 'history'. — Preceding unsigned comment added by FELIXjk007 (talkcontribs) 19:18, 9 November 2016 (UTC)

Yes, these "VERY OBVIOUS" and "fairly obvious" connections (assumptions) have been made since at least the 1870s. (Keep in mind that the word "chanty" doesn't appear in print until 1867; "shanty" in 1868.) It is a different matter, however, as to who was first using the term and what they had in mind. There is much to be said about this, but it comes under the category of "original research" (it is research I have done), and therefore not appropriate for Wikipedia. If you're interested to know my opinion (though it is irrelevant here), I think chanty is of French origin, but I think its roots lie in Creole French of the United States (Louisiana, etc). Anywhere, so far as Wikipedia is concerned, the etymology is a rather minor issue, proportionately, in a general information article about this topic. And the quality literature on this issue consists mostly of various presumed derivations from French forms (as the article states) and lots of other conjecture that has not stood the test of time and which, I don't think, merits detailing in an article of a general nature like this.

In short, if you all think that nobody in the history has ever thought of these things you're saying before (!), then you're mistaken. To make these statements, at this point, requires a full review of all the various arguments over history...which again is a bit too detailed for such an article. DrBaldhead (talk) 23:35, 13 February 2014 (UTC)

Roll the Old Chariot Along[edit]

I've never seen anything to suggest that "Roll the Old Chariot Along" is a "spiritual." Please cite a source if you can show otherwise.

The source is right there. Just click on the link. According to the Library of Congress:
"Roll the Old Chariot Along" has direct connections with black folk music of the nineteenth century, appearing in most of the standard collections of spirituals (Dett, pp. 192-93; Fenner and Rathbun, pp. 106-7; Johnson, pp. 110-11). Sandburg published a variant (pp. 196-97), and it has also been noted by collectors of shanties, including Hugill (pp. 150-51) and Doerflinger (pp. 49-50, 357). A version of this was sent to Gordon by an Adventure reader (3758) and he collected another text in California (Cal. 243). There were many black sailors on the crews of nineteenth-century vessels. They brought with them traditions of work songs, and their songs, religious and secular, were usually rhythmic and thus suited for the many kinds of gang labor needed on the big sailing ships. Gordon devoted a chapter in Folk-Songs of America to "Negro work songs from Georgia" (pp. 13-19).


I think the difficulty here is the wide variety of versions of shanties. I did turn up my copy of Hugill's Shanties from the Seven Seas. At p. 121-122 of the 1987 edition, he states the following about "Roll the Old Chariot":

Doerflinger says that it is based on the words of a Salvation Army revivalist hymn and that the tune is a Scottish reel. In N. I. White's American Negro Folk-Songs are several reports of this song. One he gives from the Dismal Swamp in North Carolina was sung by whites at corn-shuckings and log-rollings. Also he gives a version sung by students of Trinity College in 1911 and 1912 as a 'pep' song at baseball games. The chorus is slightly different since it gives 'we won't drag on behind' for the final line. Also it gives the sinner, drunkard, gambler, harlot, and devil as all 'being in the way' and the idea being to 'stop and take him in', although in the case of the 'devil' we 'run it over him.' On page 300 he give s Negro version in which instead of a chariot it is a 'golden wheel' that is doing the rolling. It seems without doubt that the shanty is of Negro origin. Doerflinger gives a version in which his shantyman sings the words of 'Roll the Golden Chariot' to the tune of Drunken Sailor. In the Oxford Song Book a sailor version is given with 'Hot souse', 'fresh sea-pie', and 'a glass of whiskey hot' being the things which 'wouldn't do us any harm.'

That said, Hugill's version, unlike the linked version, does not mention the devil or rolling over him. To say that Hugill's version is based on a spiritual is about as far as I'd be willing to go, not that it is a spiritual. On the other hand, the linked version in the context of the quote above is more like the "spiritual" version of the song, and I agree that it qualifies.


Okay, I located my copy of Hugil's Shanties and Sailors' Songs. At p. 204 of the 1969 edition he makes the observation that the "on shore" version of the song had a religious theme (and therefore could be considered a spiritual).

still more[edit]

Okay, located my copy of Doerflinger. He has two versions of the lyrics, the one most similar to the one in the clip sung to the tune normally thought of as "Drunken Sailor" and the other with has the "glass of whiskey etc. wouldn't do us any harm" lyrics (he doesn't give the tune for that one). The former lyrics were collected from Richard Maitland, who apparently was a New Yorker of Scottish descent. According to Doerflinger, the song is a parody of a spiritual adopted by the Salvation Army.

The chorus and first verse for the Spiritual/Salvation Army (not the shanty version) are (per Mudcat):

We'll roll, we'll roll the chariot along,
We'll roll, we'll roll the chariot along,
We'll roll, we'll roll the chariot along,
And we won't drag on behind.

If the sinner is in the way,
Why, we stop and take him on,
If the sinner is in the way,
Why, we stop and take him on,
If the sinner is in the way,
Why, we stop and take him on,
And we won't drag on behind.

The version sung on the attached clip has "And we'll all hang on behind" instead of "And we won't drag on behind," according to Doerflinger, Maitland said this is part of the parody, the sailors are giving themselves a free ride in their version. Note also that the verse sung in the clip is about running over the devil, normally that would be the last verse in the religious version, it would be preceded by verses about kindly picking up drunkards, gamblers, etc as you see above.

The linked clip seems to have the parody lyrics, but the tune is slightly different from the tune given by Hugil (and obviously very different from the tune given by Doerflinger). My understanding, which may well be wrong, is that the lyrics are part of what makes a song a "spiritual." Someone should track down the other references cited by the Library of Congress and make corrections to the description on both this page and the "spiritual" page if the other references make the source of the lyrics and tune any clearer.

I removed the "spiritual" part because, as it was stated, it seemed irrelevant to the present article. It would be relevant to the history of that specific song. Or, if it were being used as an example within a discussion of the possible sources of shanty repertoire from other genres. Without that, seems to open a can of worms, and maybe make the reader wonder why other songs have not been given the same treatment (eg. "X was a minstrel song," "Y was a music hall song," "Z was a corn-shucking song"). Perhaps we can fit it back in later if wanted? DrBaldhead (talk) 10:36, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

Maitland was born and raised in Scotland and moved to New York much later in his life I believe. To say he is of Scottish "descent" is somewhat wrong, he was Scottish in all ways and then later moved to NY. (talk) 04:29, 13 December 2017 (UTC)

Spelling and some other clean up issues[edit]

Going to GA and then getting reviewed so quickly rather caught me out. I have made a few MOS edits and I see others have been making edits and using tools as well. One major issue is the mixture of British and American spellings. I can resolve this, but which one do we want to go for? Are there strong national ties to one? Also, if this a genre, shouldn't there be a genre music infobox?--SabreBD (talk) 11:25, 19 December 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for the edits. I was planning to do another pass on copyediting and style clean-up within the next 2 days. Could definitely use another set(s) of eyes, especially good ones like yours. Thanks for the note on headings, will look them over.
I was surprised how quickly the review started; must have been of interest (a good thing).
I actually don't see a mixture of spelling conventions (not considering the quotations, of course); perhaps a slip here or there to be caught in editing, but hardly a major issue. I have been using U.S. No national ties, please!
I don't think genre info box would be useful, because the problems it would raise would outweigh its usefulness in attempting to simplify the sticky issues discussed. DrBaldhead (talk) 12:34, 19 December 2011 (UTC)
OK I will see what I can do on the ce front and let you worry about the specific GA issues. Drop me a line if you need help with anything.--SabreBD (talk) 15:39, 19 December 2011 (UTC)
Hello. Just to let you know that I have now completed another pass of copyediting, worked on improving the writing style and tone, and the other stuff that I think should satisfy this stage of the review. I suppose I'll let this sit for another day or so, then inform the reviewer that it is ready for the next stage. Let me know if you expect/want to do anything else, before I do that. DrBaldhead (talk) 11:35, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
OK guys, I've done what I expect to do to let this go on to review. I am going to let it sit for another day, in case any more edits come in. Anyone watching this page, please let me know in the meantime if there is something burning you'd like to do but waiting to find the time for, and I'll delay a bit longer. We can, of course, still edit afterwards, but it's best if the article looks as "stable" as possible before then. DrBaldhead (talk) 07:39, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
I have had two runs through on copyediting and I do not think I can do much more, so that is probably all I contribute do at this time. So best of luck with the nomination.--SabreBD (talk) 10:34, 22 December 2011 (UTC)

Why GA nomination failed (Jan. 2011) - Call for discussion/suggestions before re-nomination[edit]

Hello to everyone contributing to this article or watching this page. This is just a note about the prior GA Status review with the interest in possibly re-nominating the article -- and thinking about what should be done (if anything) before that happens. This is also being put on the record for the benefit of any future reviewers.
The article was considerably edited during the review process. Lots of compromises were made, mainly in the way of me cutting material out, which of course I thought was "good stuff" but I was willing to do in the spirit of working towards the Good listing. The article seemed as if it had been adjusted to suit the reviewer's criteria except for a final unresolved issue. (The exchanges can be read in the Review, above.) This concerned external links to practical videos and field recordings of shanties, to accompany the discussion of shanty types. I had already removed any links from the article that I thought might have raised the reviewer's eyebrow re: copyrighted material, and left only the most "essential" examples which I also believe to be "obviously" fair to link to. I do not believe the links violate WP's copyright policy. The material is not being hosted on WP, it is being linked to. My understanding on WP's policy of External Links is that one may link to external sites, which is not a violation of copyright. However, WP discourages linking to sites which are known to be violating copyright. In this case, we are linking to two sites, and neither can be accused of violating copyright as I see it. The first site is the U.S. Library of Congress' site. They are hosting their own material: field recordings of shanties from the 1920s. They are not violating copyright. The second site is YouTube, consisting of videos created by the uploaders. The uploaders (2 different users) have put up home-videoed content of free public performances. As per YouTube's policy that users may not upload content for which they do not own the copyright, they have done this, and YouTube has accepted them. I don't believe we have any reason to accuse the site, YouTube, of violating copyright. You may "suspect" the users have surreptitiously violated copyright and lied about it, but why even accuse them of that? Shall we go through all the "Good" articles and see their external links and then start questioning whether the authors have lied about copyright permission? This is of course just my understanding of things, but goes to explain why the links seem fine to me. And although this is a separate issue, I also note that such examples which would illustrate the concepts in the article are extremely (did I say extremely?) rare. The average person looking for info on shanties will not soon find these example unless pointed to them; they will find many potentially misleading examples, first.
My interpretation aside, I am (and was at the time) hoping for suggestions. Of course, the ideal from my perspective would be to simply see the links stay. However, I was expecting a more specific description of just which ones are bad/ not allowed and which specifically could stay, if that is the case -- with specifics of why. Or with details on what additional info or rationale, etc might be required to make them acceptable. Or some other creative compromise. Making 10% samples (what is 10% of a shanty--traditional open-ended compositions of indefinite length?) and then appropriating the content to turn it into free use or owned by WP seems less respectful of copyright in this case than to simply link to the owner's site.
Do you guys think the article is better with the links or worse with them? If better, what should we do to keep them? And if a "Good" rating necessitates they all must go, is it better to keep them and forego the Good rating?DrBaldhead (talk) 08:19, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

History of the Sea shanty?[edit]

I find it hard to believe that sailors never sang shanties until the 1800s. The shanty "Maid of amsterdam" was written in 1608 ( Ward the Pirate, which doesn't constitute as a sea shanty, and "Captain Kidd," were both sea songs sung in the 1700s. I am sure some of the shanties we hold so dear to day date back to the pirate times if not earlier. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:24, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

"Maid of Amsterdam," more commonly known as "A-Roving," is not documented until 1883 AFAIK. That "1608" business is nonsense -- an urban (maritime?) legend of sorts. The others, as you say, are not shanties. If you read the article, you'll understand that the issue isn't of find one "smoking gun" song that somehow can be argued to have existed earlier. It's the issue of a entire genre emerging at a certain point, due to certain circumstances. If you read even further, into the 20th century historiography and mass media, you'll get a sense how folklorists and entertainers may have constructed the feeling that you have of "not being able to believe." In contrast, writers in the 19th century, when santies were still being sung, did not try to ascribe an old age to the genre. DrBaldhead (talk) 22:54, 20 April 2012 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Sea shanty/GA2. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Oakley77 (talk · contribs) 03:17, 11 May 2012 (UTC)


  1. Well written:
  2. Criteria Notes Result
    (a) (prose) Brilliantly written.  Pass
    (b) (MoS) This criteria has been followed.  Pass
  3. Verifiable with no original research:
  4. Criteria Notes Result
    (a) (references) The majority of refs are books or articles, and refs are suitable and accurate.  Pass
    (b) (citations to reliable sources) Many useful and reliable citations can be found  Pass
    (c) (original research) Entirely original  Pass
  5. Broad in its coverage:
  6. Criteria Notes Result
    (a) (major aspects) All major and vital points of the subject are covered.  Pass
    (b) (focused) Article is on track and stays on a train of thought.  Pass
  7. Neutral: it represents viewpoints fairly and without editorial bias, giving due weight to each.
  8. Notes Result
    Article has no hint of bias whatsoever.  Pass
  9. Stable: it does not change significantly from day to day because of an ongoing edit war or content dispute.
  10. Notes Result
    No edit wars or disputes.  Pass
  11. Illustrated, if possible, by media such as images, video, or audio:
  12. Criteria Notes Result
    (a) (images are tagged and non-free images have fair use rationales) A pass here...  Pass
    (b) (appropriate use with suitable captions) Yes  Pass


Result Notes
 Pass This article is ready to be a GA!

Oakley77 (talk) 17:21, 11 May 2012 (UTC)


I will be reviewing this for a bit, but during that time, please feel free to comment and help make this article a GA one. I also will be completing the review at intervals, so if you see the review half-done, be aware it will be completed soon. Thanks for the comments and input! Oakley77 (talk) 03:17, 11 May 2012 (UTC)

Many thanks for your prompt assessment! I also appreciate your constructive edits. Have a great day,DrBaldhead (talk) 20:39, 11 May 2012 (UTC)

Shanty in Polish[edit]

A shanty in Polish is szanta, not szanty. Szanty is the form of plural (a shanty = szanta, shanties = szanty). (talk) 17:51, 27 September 2013 (UTC)

Performance styles[edit]

'Still other performers come to shanties from backgrounds in pop, rock, or theatrical music, and perform in what may be called a "contemporary" style'.

This sentence seems confusing: "contemporary" in the context of shanties conveys 19th century to me. If "modern" is what is meant, wouldn't that word be better? The ambiguity of "contemporary" is vexatious when several periods are being referred to. Paul Magnussen (talk) 17:10, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Are any of the field recordings from the 1930s available digitally, are they public domain?[edit]

I was surprised the article itself did not feature any playable files as examples of the field recordings mentioned. There are also no links to anywhere else where you might find some. I managed to find a lomax recording made available publicly but it's from 1962 so it's stretching it a bit.

I can see they're quite hard to find if they are out there because I've not yet found any. For my own sake I'd be interested in hearing it. Based upon reading this article it sounds like that's the most 'authentic' sounding recordings one could hear as they are said to feature sailors who in their careers would sing the shanty's as part of their regular daily workload. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:52, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

Too sceptical/agnostic a wording about the etymology[edit]

The Online etymology dictionary presents the French theory, albeit with the qualification 'probably'. The online Oxford dictionary does the same. The Wikipedia article seems to place, both in the lead and in the etymology section, too much emphasis on there being several 'uncertain' and 'inconclusive' theories, when the fact is that one of them is by far the most commonly assumed one, in recent sources at least.-- (talk) 16:53, 11 March 2017 (UTC)

African/Carribean influence?[edit]

The section on African and Carribean influence seems to imply that singing while working was unknown to the British before seeing it in Africans and that work songs derive from African influence. This seems very unlikely to me seeing that drinking songs sung together, very similar to sea shanties and work songs, had being a large part of British pub culture and camaraderie for hundreds of years at this point. I'm also fairly certain that work songs had existed in Britain for a long time before then too.

Yankee doodle is, according to this very site, quite possibly originally a Dutch work song from the 15th century for example. Overall, the section implies a strong bias without any reasonable claims to back it up. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:22, 13 December 2017 (UTC)