1. John Cherokee

From the recording Jefferson and Liberty

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This is a sailing song from the 17th century Caribbean area where ships were often manned by what were referred to as "checkerboard crews," a combination of white, African and Indian sailors, both free and indentured. The chantey was written about a West Indies slave whose talent for escaping became legendary. It is a good example of a short-haul or loading song, the songs used when loading and unloading cargo. The influence of fieldworker and slave history can been heard in both the music and the lyrics.


John Cherokee was an Indian man,
Alabama John Cherokee
He run away whenever he can,
Alabama John Cherokee

Way Hey Oh, Alabama John Cherokee
Way Hey Oh, Alabama John Cherokee

They put him aboard a whalin' ship
Again he gave the boss the slip

They catch him again and tie him up tight
Put him in the dark without any light

Nothing to drink and nothing to eat
He just fall dead at the captain's feet

They bury him by the old gatepost
Very same day you can see his ghost

The break of day he goes below
That is when the cocks do crow