39 - John the Slacker, Slacker

Words by Traditional
Tune by Traditional

We love this song and it is an absolute favourite on all our nights!

But…'kanaka' is a word from the Hawai'ian for man, which came to be used in English to describe workers from the Pacific Islands who were employed by their colonisers. Sadly, in Australia it is a charged and hateful racist term, where descendants of kanakas are recognised to be even more disadvantaged than indigenous populations. This song gives some specific racial identity to complaints of mistreatment on the ocean, with a cheery melody.

We're not sure what to do with this one - we liked what the London Sea Shanty Collective had done with it at a recent workshop, replacing 'John Kanaka' with 'John, the slacker', so we've adopted that

I thought I heard the old man say

John, the slacker, slacker, too lie ay

Today, today is a holiday

John, the slacker, slacker, too lie ay

Too lie ay, oh, to lie ay (hoo)
John, the slacker, slacker, too lie ay

We’ll work tomorrow but no work today
We’ll work tomorrow but no work today

We’re bound away for 'Frisco Bay
We’re bound away at the break of day

We’re bound away 'round Cape Horn
We wish to Christ we’d never been born

Oh haul, oh haul, oh haul away
Oh haul away and make your pay

And we are Liverpool born and bred
We’re strong in the arm but we’re thick in the head