The Most Popular Sea Shanty, Ranked

Choose the sea shanty you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 24, 2024 09:23
Sea shanties, once sung by mariners to synchronize their work on ships, have seen a resurgence in popularity that transcends the boundaries of the sea. This resurgence highlights the timeless appeal and connective power of these folk songs. By establishing which shanties resonate most with people today, we can preserve and celebrate an important piece of maritime heritage. Ranking these melodious works offers fans and newcomers alike a chance to engage with the tradition actively, ensuring the survival and relevance of these songs in contemporary culture. Your votes help identify the tunes that continue to inspire, entertain, and unite audiences around the globe.

What Is the Most Popular Sea Shanty?

  1. 1

    Drunken Sailor

    A traditional shanty sung aboard ships, with origins tracing back to the 19th century.
    • Origin: 19th century
    • Theme: Dealing with a drunken sailor
  2. 2

    Blow the Man Down

    A halyard shanty known for its lively tempo and was used to coordinate the heavy labor of setting sails.
    • Type: Halyard shanty
    • Theme: Setting sails
  3. 3

    Leave Her, Johnny

    A capstan shanty used during the operation of a ship's capstan, particularly popular as a song to sing at the end of a voyage.
    • Type: Capstan shanty
    • Theme: End of voyage
  4. 4

    Spanish Ladies

    A traditional British naval song, describing a voyage from Spain to the Downs.
    • Origin: British
    • Theme: Voyage from Spain
  5. 5

    The Mingulay Boat Song

    A song written in the 20th century, often mistaken for a traditional shanty, that describes the challenging conditions of sailing to the Isle of Mingulay.
    • Origin: 20th century
    • Location: Isle of Mingulay
  6. 6


    A New Zealand folk song that became popular due to the social media platform TikTok, reviving interest in sea shanties.
    • Origin: New Zealand
    • Popularity Boost: 2020-2021 TikTok trend
  7. 7

    Roll the Old Chariot

    A traditional sea shanty that has been sung and adapted in various versions, often performed with a call and response structure.
    • Structure: Call and response
    • Variations: Many versions
  8. 8

    Haul Away Joe

    A traditional sea shanty sung while performing tasks on board, such as hauling ropes.
    • Activity: Hauling ropes
    • Type: Work song
  9. 9

    The Mermaid

    A traditional shanty that tells the story of a ship's encounter with a mermaid, often associated with bad omens.
    • Theme: Encounter with a mermaid
    • Symbolism: Bad omen
  10. 10

    Bully in the Alley

    A work song of West Indian origin that became popular among sailors, particularly in the context of loading cargo.
    • Origin: West Indian
    • Context: Loading cargo

Missing your favorite sea shanty?

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About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular sea shanty. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or shanty is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 118 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each shanty once every 24 hours. The rank of each shanty is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

Additional Information

More about the Most Popular Sea Shanty

Sea shanties are traditional maritime songs. Sailors sang them to coordinate their work on ships. These songs have a rich history. They date back to the age of sail, when ships relied on wind power. The rhythm of the songs helped sailors work in unison. Tasks like hoisting sails and pulling ropes became easier.

Shanties were not just work songs. They also provided entertainment. Life at sea was hard and monotonous. Singing shanties helped break the monotony. It boosted morale and fostered camaraderie among the crew. The lyrics often told stories or described life at sea. Some shanties were humorous, while others were serious.

The structure of a shanty is simple. There is usually a call-and-response format. One sailor, the shantyman, would sing a line. The rest of the crew would respond with a chorus. This format made it easy to learn and sing along. The rhythm matched the pace of the work being done.

Shanties vary in style. Some are slow and steady, suited for heavy tasks. Others are fast and lively, perfect for lighter work. The style depended on the type of work and the tempo needed. Despite the differences, all shanties share a common purpose: to aid in work and lift spirits.

These songs have a cultural significance. They reflect the life and struggles of sailors. The lyrics often include nautical terms and references. This gives insight into the maritime world. They also show the influence of various cultures. Sailors came from different backgrounds, and their songs reflect this diversity.

Sea shanties have experienced a resurgence in popularity. The internet has played a big role in this revival. People share and discover shanties through social media and videos. This has introduced the genre to a new audience. Modern renditions and adaptations have also emerged. Musicians blend traditional shanties with contemporary styles.

The appeal of shanties lies in their simplicity and communal aspect. They are easy to sing and involve group participation. This makes them enjoyable for both performers and listeners. The timeless themes of adventure and camaraderie resonate with many.

Despite changes in the maritime industry, the legacy of sea shanties endures. They remain a testament to the resilience and spirit of sailors. These songs continue to captivate and inspire, bridging the gap between past and present.

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