Friday Five: Pirates

Juli Thanki | January 7th, 2011

Say yes to booty with these five songs about pirates.

  • Stolen Moments5. “The Pirate Queen” – Alison Brown

    This jazzy instrumental track sounds pretty laid back for a character as rough-edged as a pirate queen. But Brown’s banjo picking (and the work of her fellow musicians on the record) is flawless and a pleasure to listen to.

  • A-1-A4. “A Pirate Looks at Forty” – Jimmy Buffett

    Here, Buffett bemoans the fact that he’s a pirate born two centuries too late. Look on the bright side, pal: you’re a lot less likely to develop scurvy these days.

  • Cardiff Rose3. “Jolly Roger” – Roger McGuinn

    This gem is from McGuinn’s mid-1970s album Cardiff Rose (which also includes an excellent co-write from one Mr. Kris Kristofferson). Here McGuinn adds a shot of country rock to an Irish folk melody; that, combined with wonderfully descriptive lyrics about a man and the “day [he] first became a scurvy buccaneer,” make “Jolly Roger” one of my favorite pirate songs.

  • Hellos Goodbyes & Butterflies2. “Blackbeard” – Donna Hughes

    You might not have heard Donna Hughes’ name before, but you might have heard her work: Alison Krauss & Union Station and the Seldom Scene are just two acts who’ve recorded her songs. The biographical “Blackbeard,” found on Hughes’ 2010 album Hellos, Goodbyes, and Butterflies is equal parts entertaining story song and history lesson (didn’t know that Blackbeard’s severed head was displayed on the bow of the last ship he boarded? You do now.).

    (You can listen to “Blackbeard” on her MySpace page)

  • 1. “Captain Kidd” – Pete Seeger

    “Captain Kidd” dates back centuries; it was a broadside printed around the time of the (alleged) pirate’s 1701 hanging. There are several versions floating around by various acts including Burl Ives and Cowboy Junkies. As far as pirate songs go, it’s hard to find a better (or gorier) one than this. For a fascinating look at the song’s history and lyrics, check out David Kidd’s extensive research.

  1. Ollie
    January 7, 2011 at 7:28 am

    I’ve always enjoyed “Lincoln Park Pirates,” Steve Goodman’s song about a notorious auto towing company in Chicago. He’s another artist we lost far too young.

  2. Jonathan
    January 7, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Another good song for this list is Kenny Chesney’s “Better As A Memory” from 2008. It’s one of his most deeply felt lyrics and vocal performances and an all-around great song. Plus, he mentions that “all my friends are pirates.”

    Overall a very solid list.

  3. Mike Parker
    January 7, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Always like David Lee Murphey’s “Pirate’s Cove.”

  4. Wade
    January 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

    “Pirate Ships” Wendy Waldman

  5. Fizz
    January 7, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Pirates … there sure aren’t too many songs about them, in any genre. Why is that? With the exception of the German band Running Wild, who do almost nothing BUT pirate songs, or course.

    But Jimmy Buffett … man, I like the IDEA of Jimmy Buffett, but have been able to get into the actual music at all.

  6. Josh
    January 7, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I second David Lee Murphy’s “Pirate’s Cove” song. It’s a nice laid back melody with a hint of romance in a dangerous area. I feel DLM would champion pirate themes since he has a wicked tattoo and the look of a wayfaring seafarer.

  7. Barry Mazor
    January 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

    There’s “The Pirate Song” from Ray Stevens. That’s a pirate song.

  8. Bob
    January 7, 2011 at 11:17 am

    “The End of My Pirate Days” from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Stones in the Road” album.

  9. Mike Parker
    January 7, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Forgot about the Ray Stevens one… loved that song.

  10. Jane2
    January 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    No pirate song list is complete without The Last Saskatchewan Pirate.

  11. luckyoldsun
    January 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    How about the “Pirates of the Mississippi.” Some of their stuff wasn’t too terrible.

  12. Howard
    January 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Shiver Me Timbers by Tom Waits, a classic in any genre you want to place it.

    And that fella CW Stoneking from Australia, most of his songs at least have a pirate feel.

  13. Lee S.
    January 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Love Captain Kidd. Great Big Sea’s version is still my favorite, though.

  14. Rick
    January 7, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    I have to admit the only pirate songs I ever cared for were “Yo Ho Ho And A Bottle of Rum” and the Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland ride’s theme song “A Pirate’s Life For Me”.

    Here in Southern California you can find pirates performing scurvy deeds around town quite often. In fact they are available for hire for those into such things. Here’s a small clip of them in action:

    Speaking of pirates, I got to meet three time Survivor contestant Rupert in early December at the Cycle World Motorcycle Show in Long Beach. He was trying to explain to some children how he was being a “good pirate” when he stole the opposing team members’ shoes and traded them away on the “Pearl Islands” round of Survivor…

  15. Jeremy Dylan
    January 7, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I will third the David Lee Murphy pick.

  16. Stormy
    January 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Rick: This is the most adorable pirate clip ever:

  17. Matt B
    January 8, 2011 at 1:05 am

    I thought this was gonna be about some people stealing country music or something, not even realizing it was the Friday Five. Anyway, it’s good to see that “Pirate’s Cove” was mentioned. Always loved that song.

  18. Sam G.
    January 8, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I’ll second Lee S.’ comment above about Great Big Sea and their version of “Captain Kidd.” That was the first song I thought of when I saw the theme.

  19. Rob Lagan
    January 12, 2011 at 3:18 am

    Good reading, Mcguinns Jolly Roger is terrific.

    Regards Rock N Roll Time co written with Kris K,
    Roger was never able to get that song right & after a a few different versions it was put away for ever !

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