The Titanic (Husbands and Wives)

AKA

The Great Titanic
When That Great Ship Went Down

This is one of the more popular camp fire songs in America. It is very popular with both the boy scouts and the girl scouts, and pretty much any other group of children/ young adults that sing around the campfire, on bus trips, and etc. But it's also a song with a long history; it's been around for almost a hundred years.

It's hard to pinpoint when this song first arose, or what the original lyrics were. Folk songs about the Titanic started appearing almost immediately after she sunk. But no other song lasted as long as The Titanic, and a decent amount of historical research has been done in hunting down its origins.

Perhaps the first recording of this song was in August of 1927, preformed by William and Versey Smith in Chicago. But the song had been around before this recording, from at least 1920, and perhaps earlier. In his book American Negro Folk-Songs (1928) Newman I. White claims that the song had been heard as early as 1915 or 1916, sung by 'negros' in Alabama. Below is the version given by Newman White:

The Great Titanic

It was on one Monday morning just about one o'clock
When that great Titanic began to reel and rock;
People began to scream and cry,
Saying, "Lord, am I going to die?"

Chorus

It was sad when that great ship went down,
It was sad when that great ship went down,
Husbands and wives and little children lost their lives,
It was sad when that great ship went down.

When that ship left England it was making for the shore,
The rich had declared that they would not ride with the poor,
So they put the poor below,
They were the first to go.

While they were building they said what they would do,
We will build a ship that water can't go through;
But God with power in hand
Showed the world that it could not stand.

Those people on that ship were a long ways from home,
With friends all around they didn't know that the time had come;
Death came riding by,
Sixteen hundred had to die.

While Paul was sailing his men around,
God told him that not a man should drown;
If you trust and obey,
I will save you all to-day.

You know it must have been awful with those people on the sea,
They say that they were singing, "Nearer My God to Thee."
While some were homeward bound,
Sixteen hundred had to drown.


The camp-fire song (or songs; there are many versions) is much lighter in tone. While it's hard to give an 'average' set of lyrics, the verses below are a good example of what you might hear nowadays. The chorus is often split into two parts -- half the group sings one set of lines and the other half echoes with the second. I've put the second group's lines in parentheses (there are two options for the echoing; you can choose the set you like, or switch back and forth between the two. Just make sure everyone is on the same page before you start).

Oh, they built the ship Titanic, to sail the ocean blue
And they thought they had a ship that the water wouldn't go through
But the good Lord raised His hand, said the ship would never land
It was sad when the great ship went down

Chorus:

Oh, it was sad,
(Oh, it was sad) or (So sad!)
Oh, it was sad,
(Oh, it was sad) or (Too bad!)
It was sad when the great ship went down to the bottom of the sea
(Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives)
or
(Uncles and aunts, little children lost their pants)
It was sad when the great ship went down.

Oh, they were not far from shore, when they heard a mighty roar
And the rich refused to associate with the poor
So they put them down below, where they'd be the first to go
It was sad when the great ship went down.

It was the middle of the night when they hit the block of ice
And they all decided that it wasn't very nice
To be stuck on a boat that wouldn't even float
It was sad when the great ship went down

Mrs. Brown turned around just to see her husband drown
As the great Titanic made a gurgling sound
So she wrapped herself in mink, just to see the great ship sink
It was sad when the great ship went down

They put the lifeboats out, on the wild and stormy sea,
And the band struck up with Nearer My God to Thee
Little children wept and cried, as the waves rolled o'er the side
It was sad when the great ship went down

The Captain stood on deck, with a teardrop in his eye
As the last boat left, he waved them all goodbye
He went down with the ship to the bottom of the sea
It was sad when the great ship went down

Oh, the moral of this story, is very plain to see
Always wear a life preserver, when you go off to sea
For the good Lord raised his hand, said the ship would never land
It was sad when the great ship went down

After the final chorus, there is an optional special ending...

Kerplunk!
It sunk
Like junk
In the sea
Without me
Luckily
Hee hee hee.

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