Too Much Time With A Sailor

Come all ye young fellows who follow the sea.

Wey! Hey! Blow the man down! 

And please pay attention and listen to me;

Give us some time to blow the man down!

This is where my mind and my fingers have been for the past several weeks. I feel as if I have been having an affair with a sailor by getting up close and personal with the sea shanty Blow The Man Down.

I have been trying to learn this song on the piano and like every song I learn this one taught me something new. It presented the a-ha moment of timing those one-and-a-half-length quarter notes combined with a an eighth note on one hand while playing regular quarter notes with the other. Believe me it has not been easy and continues to be rocky as my numb old fingers do not tickle the ivories (or in my case, the plastics) very well. Nor are they agile enough to tickle a sailor if I were so inclined. 

Of course, with the chorus repeating itself in my head over and over as I tried to play the damn thing I couldn’t help but wonder, what the hell the song was about anyway? I decided to delve deeper. A diversion from practicing for sure as my focus has been off lately.

This English sea shanty has been around since approximately the 1860’s, but may be familiar to some from its more recent use on the show Sponge Bob Square Pants. There are many verses and a some different versions of the song. One, the one sung by Woody Guthre, tells the story of a sailor being tricked by a beautiful woman and ended up aboard the ship. Another version suggests that the sailor was pressed ganged into service against his will. A common practice at the time. Either way the sailor’s life was a hard one. Punishment often entailed being punched or kicked by those in charge. The actual phrase blow the man down is sometimes referred to knocking a sailor down as a punishment. But it could also mean a sailor wanting to finish his beer before going back to the ship. No one really knows.

So, as you can tell, understanding the meaning of this song is not as cut and dry as I had hoped it would be. However it is fun to listen to, except perhaps when I play it as it is rarely complete or error free no matter how much I love to plunk away at it. Like many short-term relationships, this one has challenges. Personally I think it might be time to find another love because my affair with this sailor is choppy at best.

Thank you for reading. 

Photo:  Popeye:  Music: Jenn Stone – Alfred’s Basic Piano Version

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15 thoughts on “Too Much Time With A Sailor

    1. I think learning would have been easier if I had started a lot younger. I have only been at it for a short while. The multitasking of playing different parts with each hand is a challenge.


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