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Shiver me timbers! A show about sea chanteys

Members of The Jovial Crew perform July 26, 2023, in the Ct Public fifth-floor studio for the Colin McEnroe Show.
Connecticut Public
Members of The Jovial Crew perform on July 26, 2023, in the Connecticut Public studio for The Colin McEnroe Show.

Today, the sea chantey is something people listen to while having a good time in bars or at festivals, but its roots are more complex, stretching into the hard labor performed by sailors on 19th century merchant vessels and having ties to Black work songs. During the first year of the pandemic, there was a sea chantey craze on TikTok as people found joy and connection in the songs.

This hour, we treat you to the joy of the chantey form and some of the history that lies behind it.


  • The Jovial Crew: A group of musicians and historians that’s been performing chanteys, forebitters, and other traditional old songs in Essex, Connecticut, since its founding in 1986; on the show today are Joseph Morneault, Rick Spencer, Michael Hotkowski, and the group’s founder, Cliff Haslam
  • Maya Angela Smith: Associate professor of French at University of Washington who wrote the essay “A People’s Song Upon the Waters

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Colin McEnroe, Eugene Amatruda, and Cat Pastor contributed to this show, which originally aired August 2, 2023.

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Carolyn McCusker helps produce The Colin McEnroe Show. She loves making true radio stories and listening to fake ones. In the past, she’s worked for NPR and WNYC, and she’s glad to be back at CT Public after interning in 2019. Carolyn can be reached at cmccusker@ctpublic.org.