A shanty is a work song that was sung by sailors as they did their jobs aboard a ship. Before the invention of engines, sailors hauled up anchors, hoisted sails, and loaded cargo by hand. Performing these jobs required great strength, and many men had to work together. The shanty supplied the rhythm for these jobs so that all the sailors knew when it was time to pull or push together. It also provided entertainment. Being work songs, shanties (with the exception of Ceremonial shanties and forecastle songs) were only sung when working, and never in a pub ashore. Lyrics for some more well known Shanties can be found on the Lyrics Page.

Also entertaining are the bawdy songs. At most Ren Faires you will definitely hear them. Some of them are period and some of them are not. Either way they are entertaining, though probably not appropriate for younger ears as may of them are suggestive, or some what lewd.  They can still be a lot of fun to sing or to listen to. You can find some of these tunes on the Bawdy Songs page.

Information on Shanties

The shanty was usually sung in call-and-response style. A lead singer, known as the "shantyman," improvised or made up the solo part as he went along. Sometimes his lyrics were humorous. The sailors joined in on the chorus, which always had the same words. The shantyman, with a loud booming voice and a good imagination for making up words, was needed by the captain of a ship. Such a singer could keep all of the men working together, and everyone could hear him. The singing continued through most of the work, so a shantyman who was talented at making up verse after verse helped keep the men amused as they worked.

Most songs involved a lead singer and a choral response. The words were called out by a chantyman and the men joined in on the chorus. The words of the chorus usually coincided with a heave, or pull.

Shanties served both as a mental diversion and synchronized teamwork. They also provided an outlet for sailors to express their opinions in a manner which would not cause punishment.

Types of shanties :

For more information see the International Shanty and Seasong Association