I was approached recently by a friend in Texas with a request for the words to an old shanty song, “Haul Away Joe”. Here’s what I sent him — I hope it will interest a few others as well:
Let me do you one better. That old shanty, also known as “Haul Away My Rosy”, has been one of my favorites since 1958. Therein lies a story:
In 1958, I found an Lp of the Norman Luboff Choir doing sea songs. I was 17 at the time and was beginning to explore American and other folk songs, many of whose melodies I though were wonderful, along with the great stories that the songs told. Now, the choir did a great job with that song and many others, as a choir. But that’s only the beginning of the story.
I had a “crazy uncle” who lived North of us in Berkeley and taught bio-chemistry at Cal. He and his wife came to visit us, and I managed to drag out this LP to play for him.
So my uncle leaned back and remarked, “Yes it’s a nice song. I wonder how it would sound if a sailor sang it . . . ?” That annoyed me, no end. Here I had played a beautiful folk song for him but he wasn’t that impressed with this magnificent choir. His remark nagged at me for for several weeks . . . I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Finally, I visited our local library at UCSB and spoke with the librarian (remember, no Internet, no Google!). The librarian mentioned she had heard the the Library Of Congress might have some recordings of sea shanties. I wrote them and found that, for the sum of $3.98 + shipping, I could buy an Lp of collected folk songs including sea shanties. So I became the proud owner of the bright red vinyl Lp AAFS-L2, which included Haul Away My Rosy by J.M. “Sailor Dad” Hunt of Marion, VA, recorded by Alan Lomax in 1941.
Of course, there was a world of difference! So here is the song, done as a sailor would sing it, except that it would be sung more slowly while they were hauling the topsails. Do me a favor and sing it to the credit of “Sailor Dad”.
Click here for song: HaulAwayMyRosy