June 30, 2020
80 color illus.
8.50 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.05 Pounds (US)
$22.95 USD
v2.1 Reference

Sailor Song

The Shanties and Ballads of the High Seas

By Gerry Smyth
Illustrated by Jonny Hannah
Passed down in the oral tradition and sung as working songs, sea shanties tell the compelling human stories of life on the water: hard labor, battling the elements, pining for distant loves and far-away homes. The music's rhythms are designed to galvanize the group effort of heaving, pushing, and pulling to weigh anchor, wind rope around a capstan, or set sail.

Acclaimed shanty devotee Gerry Smyth presents the background to each shanty alongside musical notation. The lyrics are elaborated upon with explanations of terminology, context including historical facts and accounts of life at sea, and the characters, both fictional and nonfictional, that appear in the songs from the great age of sail to the last days of square-rig.

About the Authors

Gerry Smyth is professor of English at Liverpool John Moores University. The work of illustrator and printmaker Jonny Hannah has beenfeatured in Vogue, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe and in the publication Greetings from Darktown.


"This book is designed to be used by performers and ensembles looking for singable versions of these ribald and entertaining songs."—New Books in Performing Arts

"The result of years of research, this illustrated book features more than 40 shanties and 10 ballads, complete with their lyrics and history. Designed to be used by performers, the volume brings to life the art form."—Library Journal

"The book is simply suffused with an inviting friendliness—compelling original and period illustrations, easy-to-read musical notation, and scads of collected verses plus historical background for nearly every song. For anyone not yet familiar with the world of the sea shanty and its relatives, this volume is sure to provide an excellent introduction."—Journal of Folklore Research

"Sailor Song is compact and pretty but its value to this audience is more as an exemplar of a particular narrative history or as a tool to understand certain current shanty performance practices."—Ethnomusicology

University of Washington Press

9780295747286 : sailor-song-smyth-hannah
160 Pages
$22.95 USD

Other Titles by Gerry Smyth

Serpent, Siren, Maelstrom, and Myth

Gerry Smyth, illustrated by Jonny Hannah
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Other Titles by Jonny Hannah

Serpent, Siren, Maelstrom, and Myth

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Oct 2023 - University of Washington Press
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