by Smyth, Gerry
Passed down in the oral tradition and sung as working songs, sea shanties tell the human stories of life on the water: hard labor, battling the elements, pining for distant loves and far-away homes. The 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.