> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Whiskey Johnny
> Louis Killen > Songs > Whiskey Johnny / Whiskey Is the Life of Man
> Bellowhead > Songs > Whiskey Is the Life of Man

Whiskey Johnny / Whiskey Is the Life of Man

[ Roud 651 ; Ballad Index Doe015 ; trad.]

Thames barge skipper Bob Roberts sang the halyard shanty Whisky Johnny in a recording made by Peter Kennedy in the 1950s on the Saydisc CD Sea Songs & Shanties. He also sang Whiskey Johnny in on his 1978 Topic LP Songs from the Sailing Barges. A.L. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

… As for the work-shanties, Haul Away, Joe, Whiskey Johnny and Leave Her, Johnny, Bob converts them into lyrical social songs for the sake of their choruses.

Ewan MacColl sang Whiskey Johnny with A.L. Lloyd singing chorus in 1957 on their Tradition album Blow Boys Blow. A.L. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Devoted antiquarians who imagine the shanties are ancient songs (in fact, few are more than a century-and-a-quarter-old) declare that originally it was malmsey that had the serious effects outlined by the shantyman. Chapter and verse for this statement are not given, however. Sailormen, interrogated on the point, have given the enquirer a sidelong glance and passed on. This halyard shanty was most often sung when the men were working aft near the skipper's quarters, in the enduring hope that his heart might melt, and he would order a tot for all hands.

Louis Killen sang this shanty as Whiskey Johnny in 1970 on his South Street Seaport Museum LP 50 South to 50 South and in 1973 with the Clancy Brothers as Whiskey Is the Life of Man on their album Greatest Hits (which was reissued in 2000 with a few extra tracks as the CD Best of the Vanguard Years).

Bellowhead sang Whiskey Is the Life of Man in 2008 on their CD Matachin. Jon Boden commented in the album notes:

Another shanty sung in both England and North America, this is based on the version sung by singer, Yorkshireman, international jet-setter and bearded legend Mr Graham Metcalfe to whom we dedicate the track.

Lyrics

Ewan MacColl sings Whiskey Johnny The Clancy Brothers sing Whiskey Is the Life of Man

Oh whiskey is the life of man
Always was since the world began

Oh whiskey is the life of man
Always was since the world began

Chorus (after each verse):
Whiskey-o, Johnny-o
Rise her up from down below
Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey-o
Up aloft this yard must go
John rise her up from down below
Chorus (after each verse):
Whiskey-o, Johnny-o
Rise her up from down below
Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey-o
Up aloft this yard must go
John rise her up from down below

Oh whiskey is the life of man
Whiskey from an old tin can

Now whiskey made me pawn me clothes
And whiskey gave me a broken nose

Whiskey made me pawn me clothes
Whiskey gave me a broken nose

Now whiskey is the life of man
Whiskey from an old tin can

I thought I heard the old man say
I treat me crew in a decent way

I thought I heard the first mate say
I treats me crew in a decent way

I treat me crew in a decent way
Give them whiskey twice a day

A glass of whiskey all around
And a bottle full for the shanty man

A glass of whiskey all around
And a bottle full for the shanty man

Bob Roberts sings Whisky Johnny Bellowhead sing Whiskey Is the Life of Man

O whisky is the life of man
    Whisky—Johnny
O I'll get whisky where I can
    Whisky for me Johnny

Whiskey is the life of man
Whiskey from an old tin can

I like whiskey hot and strong
And I'll drink whiskey all day long

Chorus (after every other verse):
O whisky here and whisky there,
    Whisky—Johnny
O I'll get whisky everywhere
    Whisky for me Johnny
Chorus (after every other verse):
𝄆 Whiskey-o, Johnny-o
Rise him up from down below 𝄇
Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey-o
Up aloft this yard must go
Come rise him up from down below

O whisky made me pawn my clothes
And whisky gave my this red nose

I'll drink it hot, I'll drink it cold
I'll drink it new, I'll drink it old

O whisky killed my poor old dad
And whisky drove my mother mad

Some like whiskey, some like beer
I wish I had a barrel here

O whisky hot and whisky cold
O whisky new and whisky old

Whiskey killed my sister Sue
And whiskey killed by brother too

O whisky up and whisky down
O whisky all around the town

Whiskey killed my poor old dad
And whiskey drove my mother mad

O champagne's good and rum is free
But whisky's good enough for me

If whiskey comes too near my nose
It's up she comes and down she goes

A glass of grog for every man
And a bottle full for the shanty man

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: The Parting Glass.