What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? 6 Time-tested Solutions

Drunken Sailor song artIt's an old question, asked over and over by skippers, mates, and bosuns (not to mention barmaids and madams!) since men have ventured forth upon deep waters. The question gets raised again year after year at sea shanty and folk music festivals, port town taverns, and hey, a fair number of brothels all around the world:

"What shall we do with a drunken sailor?" There have been cases so severe that the question was even phrased as "What the F**K shall we do with a drunken sailor?!!" Those skippers (and Madams) really had problems.

Suggestions have ranged from the relatively benign "Put him in the longboat 'til he gets sober!" to the downright sadistic "Shave his belly with a rusty razor!" There are those who really get a kick out of "Put him into bed with the Captain's daughter!" But they ain't never seen the Captain's daughter!

6 Drunken Sailor Solutions

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I actually put together this arrangement, which contains 6 of the most popular and time-tested drunken sailor solutions, quite some time before I ever even thought about writing original sea songs. I was learning to play so-called clawhammer style banjo, and for some reason the tune of Drunken Sailor came into my head one day and seemed like it would work. So I started messing around with it, and the above track is what resulted (for better or worse). This classic favorite traditional sea song ended up arranged with... are you ready... bluegrass instruments (mandolin, banjo, guitar, upright bass), and the vocal arrangement more folky and choir-like than is usual.

Funny how the currents of life flow, because quite some time later it was this, and my arrangement of another famous traditional sea shanty (the subject of a future blog post), that netted me an invite to perform with the Shanty Choir Tallship MIR, out of which experience suddenly came a whole bunch of "new old sea songs" that are still coming.

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