Sloop John B


Most people know that "Sloop John B" was released by The Beach Boys in 1966 on Capitol Records, but few know that it was originally a traditional West Indies folk song, possibly recorded earliest by The Weavers under the title "Wreck of the John B", the song taken from a collection by Carl Sandburg (1927).

Alan Lomax is said to have made a field recording of the song in Nassau, Bahamas in 1935, under the title "Hoist Up the John B. Sail". The song was adapted by Weavers member Lee Hays and later a version was recorded by Roger Whitaker. The recording of the song which directly influenced The Beach Boys was by The Kingston Trio.

The actual ship was a sponger, whose crew was known for being "very merry" while in port. It was wrecked and sunk at Governors' Harbor in Eleuthera, Bahamas, about 1900.

Although this song has been performed by a variety of pop artists, look at the lyrics and the song structure and you'll quickly see that this song easily qualifies as a sea shanty.


We come on the Sloop John B., my grandfather and me.
Around Nassau town we did roam.
Drinking all night, got into a fight,
Well I feel so break up, I want to go home.

So hoist up the John B's sails, see how the main sail sets,
Call for the captain ashore, and let me go home.
Let me go home, I want to go home,
Well I feel so break up, I want to go home.

The first mate, he got drunk, broke up the people's trunk,
The constable had to come and take him away.
Sheriff John Stone, why don't you leave me alone?
Well I feel so break up, I want to go home.

So hoist up the John B's sails, see how the main sail sets,
Call for the captain ashore, and let me go home.
Let me go home, I want to go home,
Well I feel so break up, I want to go home.

The poor cook he caught the fits, threw away all my grits,
Then he took and ate up all of my corn.
Let me go home, I want to go home,
This is the worst trip I've ever been on.

So hoist up the John B's sails, see how the main sail sets,
Call for the captain ashore, and let me go home.
Let me go home, I want to go home,
Well I feel so broke up, I want to go home.


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