A Top 10 list of the best songs for the sea.
There is just something about the ocean. Technically speaking, any body of water where you can’t see the opposite shore is automatically something majestic and mysterious. And boats are the most convenient way to spend time on the water, unless you’re a mighty swimmer, or gutsy enough to confront the seas on an inner tube or a surf board. Here are some songs that pay tribute to boats, and the folks who live (and die) by them.
10. “Yellow Submarine” – The Beatles. While this song isn’t technically about boats in the traditional sense, let’s face facts; they were definitely on something, but it wasn’t a submarine.
9. “Sloop John B.” – Beach Boys. This was actually written when the Beach Boys were trying out to be a cruise ship band. Since this song is the worst advertisement for cruising ever recorded, it’s no surprise they didn’t get the gig.
8. “Brandy” - Looking Glass. It’s easy to forget that all those men doing jobs on the high seas have women missing them. This song is for all those lonely ladies who keep the home fires burning.
7. “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – Gordon Lightfoot. This is a tribute to a ship that went down in the 70s. The Great lakes can be terrible when they want to.
6. “Son of a Son of a Sailor” – Jimmy Buffett. For some people, the sea is all they know. This song is for them.
5. “Come Sail Away” – Styx. This song is all about exploring and stretching out beyond one’s boundaries. Since the ocean is the ultimate in free exploration, that’s what is associated with this song.
4. “What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?” – Famous Pirate Song. Yes, sailors enjoy getting tanked. No, nobody really has a solid, catch-all idea as to what to do with them.
3. “Banana Boat Song” - Harry Belafonte. This song is for all the lowly-paid workers who are just trying to make a living somehow. They’ve battled fatigue and deadly spiders all night, and they just want to go home now.
2. “Sink the Bismarck” – Johnny Horton. This is not just a great ship song, it’s also a great workout song. When you think about an entire navy full of men willing to risk everything to stop the Bismarck “cause the world depends on us,” you realize that you can get a few extra reps.
1. “Barrett’s Privateers” – Stan Rogers. Not only is this a great song about sailing, but it’s also an incredibly bitter song about a man who has been lied to and crippled. He hasn’t seen his home for a quarter of his life, and all he can do is sit there and complain about the people who led him to that fate in his younger, more naive days. No matter how bad things may get, at least you’re not this guy.
The sea can make men rich, or it can swallow them whole. That might be why sailors like drinking so much. But the music they inspire is our heritage, as the boats rock quietly on (and under) the high seas. Just make sure to avoid any boating mishaps while rocking our to your favorite melody.