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Whiskey Johnny
Last updated: 22.04.17
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"Whiskey Johnny" is a sea song that can be found in practically every song book covering this subject. It has all the hallmarks of a genuine shanty in that it has a spirited tune, both verses and chorus are very short and there are numerous versions. The version I sing can be found in the Trident Society's The Book of Navy Songs.
The song itself in this sanitised version is about the singer's love/hate relationship with his favourite tipple. The tune is such that it lends itself readily to any subject whatsoever and I can easily imagine much ribald material was used. Quoting Master Mariner W.B. Whall, "Now seamen who spent their time in cargo-carrying sailing ships never heard a decent shanty; the words which sailor John put to them when unrestrained were the veriest filth". This certainly matches my experience in the Royal Navy where even hymn tunes were often the vehicles for the depths of depravity!
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