Help Me to Raise ’Em
“Help Me to Raise ’Em” is a sea chantey.
- Help Me to Raise Um
- Won’t You Help Me to Raise ’Em
“Help Me to Raise ’Em” is track 14 on Shower Chanteys, recorded 20 December 2017 at Mill Pond Music Studio. I finished recording it just as the Kickstarter campaign concluded, which was a pleasant coincidence.
“Help Me to Raise ’Em” is a menhaden net-hauling chantey, like “Drinking That Wine.” Unlike “Drinking That Wine,” this song is about the work, and the desire to finish it in order to get back home to the singer’s woman, Emmalina. I first heard this at the San Francisco chantey sing, but the singing of The Johnson Girls was influential, and then hearing it sung by men who had actually used it in their youth. You can watch the Northern Neck Chantey Singers explaining and demonstrating this song at the 2011 Sea Music Festival at Mystic Seaport. As with “Drinking That Wine,” and as you can see in that video, there is chatter between lines of the song, while the work is actually being done.
One of my fondest memories of Barry Finn is from the Tall Ships at Portsmouth (N.H.) festival in 2009, not long before he died. I led this song, and he provided the chatter. It was the first time I’d ever had anyone back-talk and contradict me during a chantey, and it was just perfect and wonderful.
The second verse in this one raises a difficult issue. I try to sing these songs in their traditional form (though of course with most traditional songs there isn’t a single form). In this case, “yella” or “yellow” refers to a lighter-skinned woman of Afro-European descent, and while lots of songs praise women for their beauty by reference to their skin tone (fair, dusky, rosy, etc.), this raises a question of colorism.