Drunken Sailor  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Drunken Sailor is a famous traditional sea shanty also known as What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?. It is now rarely called by its other name Sailor’s Holiday.

The theme of the song is quite self-explanatory. It begins with the question, "What shall we do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?" (Or sometimes "What do you do," etc.) Each verse thereafter suggests a method of sobering—or castigating, or simply abusing—the sailor.



Drunken Sailor was a work song often sung when raising a sail or raising the anchor, which is the reference for “Up She Rises” in the song’s chorus. Such songs were the only ones allowed in the Royal Navy. Most often, only two or three verses were sung but verses were often added until the task was completed.


The air was taken from a traditional Irish dance and march tune, "Oró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile" (Translated as "Óró, you are welcome home") originally in dorian mode. The same tune has also been used for other songs, possibly Ten Little Injuns, according to William E. Studwell in the "Americana Song Reader" (1997, p. 74)

The music was first reproduced in printed form in 1824–25 in Cole’s Selection of Favourite Cotillions published in Baltimore. However, the lyrics were first published in 1891 under the title "What to do with a Drunken Sailor?". Another version appears in The Shanty Book, Part I, Sailor Shanties, by Richard Runciman Terry, categorised as a "Windlass and Capstan" shanty. He says of it: "Although mostly used for windlass or capstan, Sir Walter Runciman tells me that he frequently sang to it for 'hand-over-hand' hauling. Whall gives it on page 107 under the title 'Early in the morning.' It is one of the few shanties that were sung in quick time."


There are many different versions of the lyrics, and possibly thousands of individual verses.

Note that "early" is generally pronounced as "earl-eye."

What shall we do with a drunken sailor, (3×)
Early in the morning?
Hoo–ray/Wey–hey/Heave-ho and up she rises, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put him in bed/the brig/the hold with the captain's daughter, (3×) <ref>referring to a flogging</ref>
Early in the morning!
Take him and shake him and try and wake him, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Make him walk the plank and swim at sea, (3x)
Early in the morning!
Make him kiss the gardeners daughter, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put him in the scupper with a hosepipe on him, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put him in the longboat til he's sober, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Keep him there and make him bale 'er, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Shave his belly with a rusty razor, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put him in the pickle barrel til he's sober, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put him in the grog barrel til he's pickled, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Throw him in the bilge and make him drink it, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Hang him from the mast like a jolly roger, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Soak him in oil til he's grown flippers, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Keelhaul him til he's sober, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Keelhaul him and pass the bottle, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Stick him in a bag and beat him senseless, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put him in the brig until he's sober, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Slap him around and call him Suzie, (3×)
Early in the morning!
You haven't seen the captain's daughter, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put 'im in the crow's nest and watch him fall down, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put 'im in a leaky boat an' make 'im bail 'er, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put 'im in the back of the paddywagon, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Give 'im a dose of salt and water, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Give 'im a taste of the bosun's rope-end, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Stick on 'is back a mustard plaster, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Heave him by the leg in a running bowline, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Tie him to the taffrail when she’s yardarm under, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Set him polishing up the brasswork, (3×)
Early in the morning!
'Round with the rum and scotch and whiskey, (3×)
Early in the morning!
God Speed, The whales are comin', (3x)
Early in the morning!
Go to the market and buy some apples, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Hang him from the yardarm til he dangles, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Scratch his back with a Cat o' Nine Tails, (3×)
Early in the morning
Have seen the captain's daughter? (2×)
Early in the morning!
Followed by:
Have you smelled the captain's daughter? (1×)
Early in the morning!
Put a bag over his head and kick him in the bollocks, (3x)
Early in the morning!
Put him in the Head with his skivies on backwards, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Put him in the hull with an angry weasel, (3×)
Early in the morning!
Hoist him aboard with a running bowline, (3×)
Early in the morning!
That’s what we’ll do with a drunken sailor, (3×)
Early in the morning!

Notable examples

The song has been widely recorded under a number of titles by a range of performers including Dschinghis Khan, Gina, Dale Haze and the Champions, Great Big Sea, the King's Singers, James Last, The Swingle Singers, the Brobdingnagian Bards, Angel B, the LeperKhanz, Pete Seeger, Captain Bogg and Salty, Terrorvision and Authority Zero. It also forms part of a contrapuntal section in the BBC Radio 4 UK Theme by Fritz Spiegl, in which it is played alongside Greensleeves. It has also been recorded by David Thomas and features on the 2006 release Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, a collection of Pirate Ballads and Sea Shanties inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean 2. The French rock band "Noir Désir" sing it in many concerts. The Irish Rovers traditionally end their concerts with an audience sing-along of the song.

Australian composer Percy Grainger incorporated the song and lyrics into his song setting "Scotch Strathspey And Reel."

The main theme from the first movement of Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102, mimics the song.Template:Fact

The American band The Barley Boys recorded their version in 2002, using the phrase "Hang him from the sails til his eyeballs fall out". Similarly, American band Firewater recorded a song entitled "Snake-Eyes and Boxcars" that borrows the melody but changes the central lyric to "What shall we do with a drunken failure?"

Don Janse produced a particularly artistic arrangement in the early 1960s which has been included in several choral music anthologies. The arrangement was first recorded by The Idlers. This arrangement has been performed by several collegiate groups over the years, including the Yale Alley Cats on their Live from Europe Album.

This song has been recorded by Sam Spence under the name "Up She Rises", and is frequently used as background music for NFL Films.

This was the favorite song of sea captain Bill Malloy in the daytime soap Dark Shadows. When the character is murdered, his ghost appears and sings the song.

The Kingston Trio recorded "Early in the Morning" the chorus of which has the same tune but these lyrics: "When you lift your eyes and/see the sun a risin'/on the far horizon/early in the morning."

In the television series, The Wild Wild West, Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn) ensnares West in a sinking coffin with lavish upholstery and a gramophone player. Its record features Loveless singing this song.

Holly Near recorded a version on her latest CD "Show Up" . The rewrite features the same tune with additional lyrics added that focus on the problem of alcohol addiction.

In 1987 Michael Steigerwald, Joseph Angelli, named The Radio Pirates, used the melody for their disco song "What Shall We Do With The Drunken D.J.". The song was issued on a single produced by Renzo Lucchetta and Paul Wucherpfennig (record number S 608932 B, Ariola Eurodisc also Hansa). The second song on the single was "Fix Your Antenna. Long Version".

The Brobdingnagian Bards combined "What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor" with the Scottish song "Donald, Where's Your Trousers?" which added extra depth to the "Way hey and up she rises" part of the chorus.

It has been referenced in the film "The Truman Show" as well as the TV shows "The Office" and "Cheers."

The song can be sung as a round, or alongside another folk song, for example, 'O Sinner Man'.

The Black Irish band did a rendition of it and include a part about Gilligan's Island.

The instrumental version of the song is also used on the Nickelodeon series SpongeBob SquarePants as the pseudo-theme of the Krusty Krab restaurant and its owner Eugene H. Krabs.

The song is covered by the band Authority Zero on their album 12:34 (with occasional changing of the lyrics to "What do you do with a Drunken Zero").

In his role as Mike LaFontaine in the film A Mighty Wind, Fred Willard sings a verse with the lyrics "put him in a cell with a long hose on him" and makes the comment, "If you put him in a cell with a long hose on him, he's going to be very popular in the shower room."

In his role as Long John Silver in the movie Muppet Treasure Island, Tim Curry sings a few verses of the song.

In the orgy scene in John Frankenheimer's 1966 movie Seconds, the crowd is wildly singing the song; a year before the Summer of Love it must have appeared risque.

There is a parody of the song in the cartoon series Duckula episode called "No sax please, we're Egyptian". In reference to the Egyptian god Ra and imaginary Pharaoh, Upshi, count Duckula and two other characters sing part of the song as: "Who? Ra. Upshi rises. (X 3)"

Further reading

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Drunken Sailor" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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