“The Deep Blue Sea (I)”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1928 (Carter Family recording)
Keywords: death suicide ship sea drowning
Found in: US(SE,So)


The girl's lover set off to sea, promising to write to her. She never hears from him. She seeks out his captain, who tells her "he is drowned in the deep blue sea." She bids "farewell to friends and relations" and decides to drown herself


Paul Stamler suggests that this is a worn-down form of "The Sailor Boy" (Laws K12). I consider the characteristic of Laws K12 to be the request for a boat that the girl may seek her lover. Also, there are very few words in common between the two. So I have,

with some hesitation, decided to split the two songs.

It is quite possible that the separation is recensional; Cohen notes that Randolph's texts appear to be a warn down version of the Carter Family version, and Randolph's is the only genuinely traditional source. So this may be the remnants of a Carter Family rewrite of "The Sailor Boy." - RBW

Cross references



  1. Randolph 794, "The Deep Blue Sea" (1 short text plus 2 excerpts, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 518-520, "The Deep Blue Sea" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 794A)
  3. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 26, "Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea" (1 text, 1 tune, perhaps rewritten by the Carter Family)
  4. Silber-FSWB, p. 181, "Sailor On The Deep Blue Sea" (1 text)
  6. Roud #4291
  7. BI, R794