Blow the Man Down
“Blow the Man Down” is a sea chantey.
- “Blow the Man Down” at Wikipedia
- “Blow the Man Down” at The Digital Tradition on the Mudcat Café
- “Blow the Man Down” discussion on the Mudcat Café
- “Blow the Man Down” at MusicBrainz
“Blow the Man Down” is a halyard chantey. It is one of the best-known chanteys, probably second only to “Drunken Sailor,” and the tune is known to nearly all Americans of a certain age as the theme song to a cartoon.
While the chorus is always the same, there are numerous variations in the verses, telling very different stories. I dithered quite a bit over which version to record; as I said to my backers:
I was a little conflicted about this… although there is one adult word in “Paddy Lay Back,” this one is quite ribald. No dirty words, but a lot of euphemisms: “There on her bed, I cut loose with my sword,” etc. For some reason, the other version of this song, which involves severely beating a policeman, is considered family-friendly.
This is mostly Hugill’s variation (a), of which he says, “I have had to camouflage this a great deal, as the original version was decidedly obscene…” The version that I got, which I probably initially learned from Salty Walt and the Rattlin’ Ratlines, but really solidified around the Killen, Warner, Warner, and Benson version, is not obscene, as such, but definitely ribald and euphemistically risqué. The “other version” I mention is Hugill’s (c), third of six variations, so not really the other version, but it is probably the other most common one. Colcord gives three versions, which align with Hugill’s, though she steers away from the bawdy one. Smith gives a single version, very civilized, but even in 1888 notes that it is “One of the best and jolliest quick-time songs, and certainly one of the most well-known.”
- “Blow the Man Down,” recording by Chris Maden. MusicBrainz.
- Stan Hugill. Shanties from the Seven Seas, pp. 157–167. New U.S. Edition. Mystic, Conn.: Mystic Seaport, 1994.
- Chris Maden. “T−3: Blow the Man Down,” Kickstarter update. 24 August 2018.
- Joanna C. Colcord. Songs of American Sailormen, pp. 53–59. Enlarged and Revised Edition. New York: Bramhall House, 1938.
- Laura Alexandrine Smith. The Music of the Waters, pp. 18–19. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1888.