Black Flag Flying

Come all you sailors near and far
You honest men know who you are
All of you who’d dare be free
Combine with us upon the sea
Together we will drink a toast
Ride the wind on down the coast
See the merchant ship to board
Raise a jar and swing a sword
Watch to see the merchant captain crying
When he sees the black flag flying

The war with Spain is over now
No more Jack over the bow
We fight for no one but our class
We’re gonna kick some captain’s ass
All you who’d live before you die
Come give an honest life a try
Sail beneath the skull and bones
Pay no heed to crowns and thrones
No more greedy princes lying
When he sees the black flag flying

No more whips and no more chains
To live free or die is what remains
If life is too short either way
You might as well live free today
All for one and one for all
We’ll board the ship and make the call
Join us, all you good men
And have your liberty again
Watch the crew now leave their captain frying
When he sees the black flag flying

Here’s to Fly and Roberts, brave and true
And Mary Kelly’s gallant crew
It seems to me the world is ours
Watch as the mighty Navy cowers
We have no nation but the sea
No creed but that we will live free
We’ll loot and burn all that we can
That’s run by a dishonest man
Their end is near and there is no denying
When he sees the black flag flying

If I could predict the future then I would
But all I know is this is good
1720 is the year
And there is nothing left to fear
We may live or we may die
Perhaps our destiny is nigh
I don’t know what the future may hold
But I know these ships are filled with gold
That was stolen from the poor as we lay dying
When he sees the black flag flying

Sheet music:
Black Flag Flying

“Black Flag Flying” originally appeared on the web album on Soundclick, Beyond the Mall. It later appeared on CDs, too.

The song was inspired by reading Markus Rediker’s book, Villains of All Nations. It’s a book about the Golden Age of Piracy, in the early 18th century, when pirates did more damage to British transatlantic trade in six years than in the previous seventeen years preceding piracy’s Golden Age, during which time Britain, France and Spain were all at war with each other — a war that saw each country triple the sizes of their navies. If I recall, about 60% of the pirates of that time were British subjects of African origin. Most people who became pirates did so because they were treated so atrociously by ship captains in the years before they mutinied and joined, or formed, a pirate outfit. Almost all of the direct quotes from pirates that exist in recorded history are those written down by clerks during sessions religious leaders like Cotton Mather had with pirates, to try to convert them to Christianity, just before they were hanged in places like Boston Commons and Rhode Island. Most of the pirates did not see God before being hanged. Rather, they talked about their loathing of the brutally unfair established order of the day.

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