Sea shanties thrived during the 18th and 19th centuries. Some go back as far as the 1400s and some are very recent. This genre of song has recently become popular thanks to TikTok and pirate-themed movies and TV shows. A typical sea shanty is a work song sung by sailors while they haul lines, etc., since it could help them keep the rhythm necessary to do the job, or sometimes just relieve the drudgery of repetitive tasks. A standard shanty was a type of call-and-response song, with the verses sung by an individual and the choruses sung by the group. The subject could be anything of interest to the sailors.

Here is a list of sea shanties, ranked by popularity as much as I could determine it.

RankSong TitleExample
1Drunken Sailor
2Leave Her, Johnny
3Randy Dandy-Oh
4Roll the Old Chariot Along
(A Drop of Nelson’s Blood)
5Barrett’s Privateers
6Rolling Down to Old Maui
7Spanish Ladies
8Haul Away Joe
9Blow the Man Down
10Santiana
11Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmate
12The Bonny Ship “The Diamond”
13Lowlands Away
14The Coasts of High Barbary
15Eliza Lee
16Old Billy Riley
17Bully in the Alley
18Mingulay Boat Song
19Cockles and Mussels
(Molly Malone)
20Fiddler’s Green
21Soon May the Wellerman Come
22Roll the Wood Pile Down
23Haul Boys Haul
24Johnny (Tom)’s Gone to Hilo
25Dead Horse
26Blood Red Roses
27Roll, Boys, Roll
28Lowlands Low
29Greenland Whale Fisheries
30Where Am I To Go M’Johnnies
31Cape Cod Girls
32Pique la Baleine
33South Australia
34The Wild Goose
35Hard on the Beach Oar
36Paddy Doyle’s Boots
37Sally Brown
38Northwest Passage
39Ben Backstay
40Rolling Down the Bay to Juliana
41Boney Was a Warrior
42All For Me Grog
43The Maid of Amsterdam
44Fire Down Below
45Turkish Revelry
46John Kanaka
47Botany Bay
48Haul Away the Bowline
49Bye-Bye My Roseanna
50Roll Down
51The Flying Dutchman
52Wild Goose Shanty
53Rye Whiskey
54Ring Down Below
55Sloop John B Sails
56Bones in the Ocean
57Maid on the Shore
58Pump Shanty
59Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)
60The Banks of Newfoundland
BONUS The Kittyman
Sea shanties: celebrating life and work at sea - Marine Café Blog