> Martyn Wyndham-Read > Songs > Shenandoah

Shenandoah

[ Roud 324 ; Ballad Index Doe077 , Hugi177 ; trad.]

Brian Mooney, Glen Tomasetti or Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Shenandoah in 1965 on their Australian album Will Ye Go Lassie Go?, and Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Shenandoah in 1984 on the album The Old Songs, accompanied by a chorus of John Kirkpatrick, Martin Carthy and Maggie Goodall.

Don McLean with a chorus of Gordon Bok, Jon Eberhard, Bob Killian, Pete Seeger and Andy Wallace sang Shenandoah in 1774 on the album Clearwater.

Jolly Jack sang Shenandoah in 1988 on their Fellside album A Long Time Travelling.

Richard Greene and Jack Shit sang Shenandoah in 2006 on the anthology of pirate ballads, sea songs and chanteys, Rogue's Gallery.

Future Pilot A.K.A. and Karine Polwart sang Shenandoah in 2007 on the former's album Secrets from the Clockhouse.

Barbara Brown and Keith Kendrick sang Shanandore in 2012 on the anthology of songs of John Short collected by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 2. The anthology's notes commented:

A shanty that is usually sung very freely—despite it’s being invariably cited as a capstan or windlass shanty. Sharp comments that “The tune is always irregular in its rhythm” and notated Short’s version in 3:2 varying into 2:2. However, Short’s beautiful version works perfectly and regularly (as it would need to for capstan work) if notated in 2:4—and sounds no different!

Another anecdote of Short is worth recounting here: Several years after he had initially introduced his parishioner, John Short, to Cecil Sharp, the Rev. Alan Brockington—by now a vicar in Liverpool—wrote to The Times in response to a discussion about the origins of Shenandoah, going on to say that: “I visited Mr. Short again in 1928. My wife was with me, and I asked him to sing Shanadar for her benefit. He said: ‘I don’t know as I like Shanadar.’ I wondered why he did not like the song, and then I remembered that that we had omitted from the published book one line he had sung in 1914, on account of its—well, unsuitability. Mr. Short seeing a lady was present and being too old to change his words at a moment’s notice, escaped from his embarrassment by saying that he did not like the song. Whereas in 1914, it was the only tune that, of his own proper volition, and without any remark from Cecil Sharp, he had praised.” The line, duly noted in Sharp’s notebook and faithfully recorded on the CD is, of course:

Oh Shanadar, I love your daughter
I love the place she makes her water.

Hugill commented that: “This is one of the shanties collectors have always thought to be clean, but when crossed, as it often was, with Sally Brown (owing to her having a daughter like Shenandoah) not even the most broadminded collector could call it clean.” Yankee Jack’s version does court Sally, but never descends to filth—unless, of course, Short was hiding behind his frequent ‘bound away’ verses! Most collectors tend to make similar comments to Terry, who did not publish Short’s version, but wrote: “This is one of the most famous of all shanties. I never met a sailor to whom it was unknown, nor have I ever found any two who sang it exactly alike. This version (sung to me by Capt. Robertson) is almost, but not quite, identical with the one I learnt as a boy. Shenandoah (English seamen usually pronounce it ‘Shannandore’) was a celebrated Indian chief after whom an American town is named. A branch of the Potomac river bears the same name. The tune was always sung with great feeling and in very free rhythm.” So you pays your money, and you takes your choice—but we’ve come to really like John Short’s version of the tune—sung here with a regular capstan timing!

Pete Coe sang World of Misery (Shenandoah) in 2017 on his CD The Man in the Red Van. He commented in his liner notes:

I first heard this version sung by Ed Trickett at Inverness Folk Festival during the early 70s. Jack Stanesco learned it from whale fishermen on St Vincent's Island. It's included on Five Days Singing, The New Golden Ring on Folk-Legacy.

Lyrics

Martyn Wyndham-Read sings Shenandoah

Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you,
Away, you rolling river.
Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you,
Away, I'm bound to go 'cross the wide Missouri.

Oh Shenandoah, I took a notion,
Away, you rolling river.
To sail across the stormy ocean,
Away, I'm bound to go 'cross the wide Missouri.

Oh Shenandoah, I'm bound to leave you,
Away, you rolling river.
Oh Shenandoah, I'll nor deceive you,
Away, I'm bound to go 'cross the wide Missouri.

Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughters,
Away, you rolling river.
I love the music of your waters,
Away, I'm bound to go 'cross the wide Missouri.

'Tis seven long years since last I saw you,
Away, you rolling river.
But Shenandoah, I'll never grieve you,
Away, I'm bound to go 'cross the wide Missouri.

Oh Shenandoah's my native valley,
Away, you rolling river.
Beside her waters I love to dally,
Away, I'm bound to go 'cross the wide Missouri.

Oh Shenandoah's a lovely river,
Away, you rolling river.
And I shall not forget you ever,
Away, I'm bound to go 'cross the wide Missouri.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origin: Shenandoah.