Sea shanty singing is suddenly all the rage—and there's more than one reason why

As if we haven't had enough strange things happen this year (which we're only two weeks into, by the way), you may have noticed a sudden proliferation of sea shanty videos come through your social media feeds. While a welcome alternative to the footage of violent insurrection and rising pandemic death tolls in the U.S., the question is: Why sea shanties, and why now?

Though there's actually a wide range of sea shanty communities online, what brought it into the mainstream was a TikTok video from Scottish singer, Nathan Evans, pounding a drum and singing a well-known shanty, "The Wellerman."


Another singer, Luke Taylor, added some bass harmony to it, taking it up a significant notch.





Soon other sea shanty enthusiasts added harmony upon harmony, and the videos began being shared far and wide.

As of yesterday, a version of the song by a British folk band, The Longest Johns, was #2 on the U.S. Spotify viral chart and had reached #5 on the global chart the day before.

So why sea shanties and why now? There are some theories about that.

As this video from Going Off-Topic explains, a sea shanty was a work song sung by men who had to coordinate their movements while doing repetitive on a ship at sea. We've seen similar communal work singing or chanting among various groups, from the military to prison chain gangs. (But with sea shanties, you don't have the ominous underpinnings of war or the disturbing inhumanity of criminal justice to wade through in order to enjoy the rhythmic singing.)

Sea Shanty TikTok is TAKING OVER in 2021 www.youtube.com

What might be behind the newfound obsession with sea shanties is the current moment we find ourselves in the communal nature of the singing, adding voice upon voice—and especially doing so virtually through TikTok. Finding a way to create such harmonies together strikes right at heart of the human connection we're desperately missing right now.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we talked a lot about how we were "all in this together," but the months since have shown us that no, actually, we're not all in this together. Some of us are still denying we're in it at all, and that loss of a shared vision and purpose—which were always vital for us to avoid the disaster we're in, losing 4,000 Americans a day—is painful. These harmonies feel like a healing balm of sorts for that societal wound. They also fill a void we all feel in being distanced from our friends, family, and community.

As science journalist Leigh Cowart points out, "behavioral synchrony feels really, really good to humans and many of us have been social distancing for months and deprived of this."

For further proof of how much we need this proof of community in harmony, please try to watch this video of 500 people singing a shanty together and not get teared up:

If that's a little too much mushy emotion for you, the nature of these work songs may also reflect the feeling of the "seemingly endless, labor-filled test" of our resolve that pandemic living has forced us into, as Dan Sheehan points out. We're all heaving and hoeing just to make it through the day at this point.

They're also just...fun to sing. And catchy. The repetition of the chorus throughout makes it easy for anyone to join in and add their own unique voice to the mix. Watch this guy slowly get won over:

Who knows how long the sea shanty trend will last, or what creative lengths it will go to. After all, we've already hit electro-shanty territory, which I guarantee nobody saw coming a few months ago.

Maybe we'll end up with an entirely new genre of music when all is said and done. There are definitely worse things that could come out of a year of pandemic misery than a harmonious reminder of community and creativity.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


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Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

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Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

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A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.

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On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.

Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.

"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”

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