Farewell To The Shanty Man

farewell to the shanty man - in memory of john taylorEarly in September 2015 my good friend John Taylor suddenly died. I’d first met John when playing cricket against him, probably in the 80s or maybe early 90s. We quickly established we both had a passion for folk music and so met often at clubs and sessions.

He was a terrific singer of sea shanties but was also a steady and expressive guitarist and was a fine singer of a wide range of songs.  His work with Bob and Rebecca Fox in the trio Foxtail Soup was always interesting and free of cliches. I worked with them a lot, solo and with my band.

I’d spoken with John a day or two before his death about Worcester Music Festival where I was to perform with Ally Craigan and John Davis. Only three days after we lost him I did my spot and it was a strange feeling. He should have been there and in a way he was. So many people were so upset but we all did our best to perform well at an event he put so much effort into. I hope we managed it.

Very soon after I felt the need to create something musical to commemorate John’s contribution to my life and that of many others. Almost immediately I came up with the title and opening line “Farewell to the Shanty Man”. That then sat around for a while.

In April 2016 I went to the wonderful retreat near Loch Ness, Moniack Mhor, for a songwriting workshop led by Karine Polwart and Findlay Napier. It was there that I decided I needed to finish John’s song.

I got some help from Mike Vass a very accomplished singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. We tried various arrangements and ended up by abandoning guitar and just using voice and fiddle. We had a resident sound engineer, the excellent Ben Seal, and here is the recording he made of “Farewell to the Shanty Man”:

[jwplayer mediaid=”239″]

I felt really awkward about performing the song. It was sort of too personal and I was worried people would not feel it did John justice, which of course it never could. I sang it at a couple of events where no one knew John and then plucked up courage to sing it at the Falcon in Bromyard and the Talbot at Knightwick, two sessions John attended. The reaction was positive and I was encouraged to make the song more public so here it is.

I still feel nervous but here goes and I hope you like it.

Here are the lyrics in case anyone wants to sing it. I’d love that!


Farewell To The Shanty Man (Tony Burt)

It’s farewell to the shanty man, he’s left these shores for good
He’s led our songs, helped right our wrongs
And brightened up the mood
Farewell to the shanty man

And it’s farewell to the shanty man, to every one a friend
He’d time for all, both great and small
A shipmate to the end
Farewell to the shanty man

Chorus:

Heave and pull my Johnny-O
Heave and pull away
Heave and pull my Johnny-O
We’ll sing again one day

So farewell to the shanty man, he left us far too soon
We wanted more, to help us roar
Our shanties at the moon
Farewell to the shanty man

Chorus:

Farewell to the shanty man, his like we’ll not see more
He’s left a hole, God Bless his soul
Too special to ignore
Farewell to the shanty man

Chorus:

Farewell to the shanty man, his like we’ll not see more
He’s left a hole, God Bless his soul
Too special to ignore
Farewell to the shanty man

© Tony Burt 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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