Monday, 22 February 2010

When That Great Ship Went Down

Tonight there was excellent programme on BBC Four about the early years of American country music with singers such as Fiddlin' John Carson (1868-1949) and Ernest 'Pop' Stoneman (1893-1968).

One of Stoneman's hit songs was sung on the programme by his daughters and it caught my attention.  The song was When That Great Ship Went Down and it told the story of the Belfast-built Titanic, which sank on 15 April 1912 after striking an iceberg.  It must have been written soon afterwards because it has been traced back to Alabama in 1915 or 1916.  Stoneman recorded it in September 1924. 
Oh, They built the ship Titanic,
They built it strong and true,
And they thought they had a ship,
That the water wouldn't go through.
It was on her maiden trip,
That an iceberg stuck the ship.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

(CHORUS)
Oh it was sad,
Oh it was sad,
It was sad when the great ship went down to the water.
All the husbands and wives,
Itty, bitty children lost their lives.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

It was off the coast of England,
And far from any shore,
When the rich refused to associate with the poor.
So they put the poor below,
Where they'd be the first to go.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

So they swung the life boats out,
O're the dark and stormy sea,
And the band struck up with "Near My God To Thee".
And the women and children cried,
As the water rushed through the side.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Mrs. Aster turned around,
Just to see her husband drown,
And the ship Titanic made a gurgling sound.
So she wrapped herself in mink,
Just to see the great ship sink.
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Oh the moral of this story,
Is when you put out to sea,
Just make sure that the ship
Is plenty sea worthy.
And the icebergs are afloat,
On an ocean far remote.
It was sad when the great ship went down.
The song was recorded by other musicians and there was also another song with the same title and the same theme but different words  This version was recorded by the Scotch-Irish folk singer Woody Guthrie (1912-1967).

No comments:

Post a Comment