I’m talking about Stan Rogers. The “Manly Man” reference is from a comment on YouTube. At 6’ 4” and with his resounding baritone putting voice to songs of the working men Canada, I suppose “Manly Man” is as apt a description as any for this singer/songwriter without being pejorative.
I first heard a one of his songs way back in the day when I was following a local group the “Howling Gael” but didn’t know it was one of his. That song was Barrett's Privateers, a song about the Antelope sloop and its journey from Halifax to Montego Bay as a Privateer. Written from the perspective of a 17 year old, it tells the tale of the Antelope’s ill fated try at gold and glory. It is a cautionary tale for all would be mercenaries. The chorus pretty much says it all:
God damn them allLater on during the first Gulf War, I got together with a bunch of peace vets who and one of them turned me on to Stan’s album “Between the Breaks”. Lo and behold Barrett's Privateers was one of the cuts on it. It also had “The Mary Ellen Carter”, “The White Collar Holler” and one of my favorites, “Harris and the mare”.
I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold
We'd fire no guns, shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier,
The last of Barrett's Privateers.
Every morning in the “What’s Happening” diary, I post a Morning tune which may or may not be related to the topic of the day. Yesterday I posted the “Ballad of the Yarmouth Castle” by another Canadian legend, Gordon Lightfoot. Over in the sidebar was Stan’s ode to the explorers of Canada, “Northwest Passage”, which was voted to be the alternative national anthem of Canada. As an example of an acappella song the harmony of the chorus will send a chill up your spine.
Of course the YouTube side bar will lead to a whole list of songs by the artist you are listening to and other related tunes. One of these was “Bluenose”, a song dedicated to one of Canada’s national treasures, the schooner Bluenose. Pure poetry.
Feel her bow rise free of Mother Sea
In a sunburst cloud of spray
That stings the cheek while the rigging will speak
Of sea-miles gone away
She is always best under full press
Hard over as she'll lay
And who will know the Bluenose in the sun?
There cannot be a mention of Stan without one of his most inspirational songs, The Mary Ellen Carter. The last verse tells you what to do.
For we couldn't leave her there, you see, to crumble into scale.
She'd saved our lives so many times, living through the gale
And the laughing, drunken rats who left her to a sorry grave
They won't be laughing in another day. . .
And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
Unfortunately Stan lost his life at the age of 33, June 2, 1983, when Air Canada Flight 797 made an emergency landing due to a lavatory fire which spread and when the door was opened after landing a flash fire occurred which killed 23 of the 41 passengers.
Thank you Stan.