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That sinking feeling

April 11th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Sunday, 15 April, will see the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic. There is little need for me to go into the story of that most famous of all maritime disasters. Movies will be shown on TV (including a new mini-series), the History Channel will take time off from Nazis, aliens and truckers to provide all sorts of perspectives, and all kinds of background and new insights will be offered in newspaper, magazine and Internet articles.

So, here I add to the saturation with a mix of songs about maritime disasters, including several that record the sinking of the monument to hubris.

Ex-Byrds man Roger McGuinn”s adaptation of the folk number Titanic was recorded especially for the Folk Den website in reaction to the sinking earlier this year of the Costa Concordia on the Italian coast. One Titanic song that has been recorded many times under different titles features twice here, first by The Sacred Shakers and then by marvellous Ruthie Foster, though in quite different interpretations.

The strangest of the Titanic songs here must be Jamie Brockett”s extensive rant about the African-American boxing champ Jack Johnson being barred from travelling on the Titanic, and how that relates to the ocean liner”s unhappy fate.

The mix ends with the hymn Nearer My God To Thee, in a version recorded as close to 1912 as I could find, sung by the renowned Irish tenor John McCormack. This, of course, is what the band is said to have played as the Titanic was sinking, though it isn”t clear whether it was to the melody favoured in England or the one more commonly used in the United States. McCormack”s version is, I think, the Bethany tune from 1859, which is the version better known in the US.

One can argue about the meaning of Procol Harum”s Salty Dog; its haunting melody suggests some sort of nautical distress.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R; home-brewed covers are included.

1. Roger McGuinn – Titanic (2012)
2. The Sacred Shakers – Titanic (2008)
3. Cisco Houston & Woody Guthrie – What Did the Deep Sea Say (1944)
4. Johnny Horton – Sink The Bismarck (1960)
5. The Dixon Brothers – Down With The Old Canoe (1938)
6. Ruthie Foster – The Titanic (God Moves On The Water) (2012)
7. Sinead O”Connor – Lord Franklin (2002)
8. Hans Theessink – Titanic (2005)
9. Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald (1976)
10. Procol Harum – Salty Dog (1969)
11. Son Volt – Sultana (2009)
12. The Pogues – Turkish Song Of The Damned (1988)
13. The Ventures – Cruel Sea (1964)
14. Frank Hutchison – The Last Scene Of The Titanic (1927)
15. Blind Alfred Reed – The Wreck Of The Virginian (1927)
16. The Highwaymen – The Sinking Of The Reuben James (1964)
17. Jamie Brockett – Legend Of The U.S.S. Titanic (2005)
18. John McCormack – Nearer My God To Thee (1914)


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  1. HM
    April 11th, 2012 at 15:41 | #1

    No “Dance Band on the Titanic”?


  2. jp
    April 11th, 2012 at 15:59 | #2

    let’s here it for four hundred ninety seven and a half feet of rope!

  3. Paul T.
    April 11th, 2012 at 17:46 | #3

    Another “Titanic” tune is “Down Among the Dead Men” by Flash and the Pan, from 1978/9.


  4. Birgit
    April 12th, 2012 at 00:22 | #4

    Thanks. Great mix! My favorite sinking-ship-song is still another haunting classic by Gordon Lightfoot: “The Ballad of Yarmouth Castle”, but the songs by Ruthie Foster and Jamie Brockett now follow fairly close…

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