Monday, April 9, 2012

Oh, It Was Sad!

I never saw the movie. There are a few cultural icons I refuse to participate in just to keep myself uniquely independent and unspotted from the world. I've never seen a single Rocky or even a Jaws movie either.

But I do join the general cultural condemnation of Celine Dion's song. Yuck.

I read this article today by Carl Wilson in the Atlantic all about the lack of love for Celine's famously annoying song. The shocker came when he linked to the original version of a folk song popular from the 1920s. By at least the 1960s, it had degenerated to a Scout campfire song which has now lost out in the P.C. wars. The words were a little different except for the chorus including the alternate version also quoted by Carl. He must have been at Camp Parsons in the late 60s to early 70s.

Here's the version we used to sing as I remember it:

Oh, they built the Ship Titanic
And they built her out of steel
And they said no storm
Could ever break her keel
But the Lord He raised His hand
And He said, "She must not stand"
Oh, it was sad when the great ship went down

Chorus (sung very irreverently):
Oh, it was sad!
It was sad!
It was sad when the great ship went down
To the bottom of the . . .
Husbands and wives
Little children lost their lives
[alternate, even more irreverently sung lines:]
Uncles and Aunts
Little children lost [or wet] their pants
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Oh, they were off the coast of England
A headin' 'way from shore
When the rich refused
To mingle with the poor
So they sent 'em down below
Where they'd be the first to go
Oh, it was sad when the great ship went down


Oh, they put the life boats out
On the cold and stormy sea
And the band started playin'
"Oh nearer my God to Thee"
And the First Mate tried to wire
But the lines were all on fire
Oh, it was sad when the great ship went down.


[last verse sung very slowly and sadly]
Now because of this great
And fateful tragedy
A mighty Coast Guard Cutter
Now sails those northern seas
And every now and then
They pass o'er that spot again
[back to tempo]
Oh, it was sad when the great ship went down!


[extra, very irreverent verse]
Oh, they built another ship
And they named her Mary Jane
And the bow and stern
Were painted just the same
Oh, they christened her with beer
And she sank right off the pier
Oh, it was sad when the great ship went down

Chorus [more rollicking than ever]

If Celine would only sing that song, I would go see DiCaprio turn blue in an instant.


  1. First, that song is awesome. I keep it alive by singing it to my kids who will no doubt sing it at Scout camp (because I will make them). I seem to remember a verse about scouts, but I can't get the wording right. I think I also remember a verse that goes like this (although I think the timing is off - singing is not my strong suit):

    Oh the cookie came on deck
    When he heard them holler, "Heck!"
    As the band struck up with "Nearer My God, to Thee"
    For he thought it was his cream
    That made the people scream,
    It was sad when the great ship went down.

    And another:

    The Captain stood on deck
    With a tear in his eye
    As the last boat left
    He waved them all goodbye
    For he thought he made a slip
    So he went down with the ship
    It was sad when the great ship went down.

    Second, I also refuse to participate in a lot of cultural stuff. I had not seen a Rocky movie until I went to a "Screen on the Green" event in Washington, D.C. and that was the movie that was playing. I haven't seen any of the others. I have only seen one Jaws movie, and I think it was Jaws 3 or 4 and it was when I was very young, probably 7 or 8 and it was on TV. Likewise, I have never seen Avatar (nor will I) and I refuse to read or watch The Hunger Games. I can't quite pin down why I won't, but it feels an awful lot like spite.

  2. well they built another ship
    and they called her the valdes
    and they said she would sail, the high alaskan seas
    but the captain raised a bottle
    and he leaned back on the throttle,
    it was sad when the great ship went down.

  3. We used to sing this version on family trips in the Kombie Van

    Oh they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue
    And they thought they had a ship that the water would never go through,
    But the Lord's almighty hand
    Knew that ship would never land.
    It was sad when that great ship went down.

    (And for what it is worth, I was sad when they found the ship; it was a favourite childhood mystery of mine! And... Aussie confession: I have not, and never will, watch a Crocodile Dundee movie!)


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