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Hoist the colours – a secret pirate song

Theme song for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2018) is inspired by an interesting tradition.

“The king and his men, stole the Queen from her bed. And bound her in her bones…” are entry words of this melancholic song that pirates sang before a death sentence execution by the East India Trade Company. We will reveal the true history about “hoist the colours”. Geeks will be disappointed. Song’s lyrics are completely made up by Ted Elliott and Tery Rossio. They were responsible for the motion picture’s music under the leadership of Hans Zimmer. 

Although not a real old pirate song, we must admit that “Hoist the colours” is really cool. Composers hit the jackpot with song’s atmosphere and lyrics. Director of the movie Gore Verbinski claimed credits for making the song with them, as he was creating music theme for the whole story. The idea of a secret pirate song has an interesting historic inspiration. 

Truth behind the secret song

It was widely known that Blackbeard, one of the most famous pirates who ever lived, recruited his crews in ports he raided or visited. Whenever the crew needed some more “human resources”, they looked around in ports. The legend says that people who would like to join his inglorious crew were supposed to sing a specific song. 
If you think about this kind of confidentiality in the beginning of the contact, song would not be so obvious and brutal in content. Story says it was actually old British nursery rhyme “Sing a song of sixpence”, which was the right song to show your will for applying. It would probably be too obvious to sing a song about bloodshed, such as “Hoist the Colours”. 
Choosing an innocent rhyme was a wise choice, and this secrecy has been developing for several years. But “Sing a song of sixpence” was not a random choice.
When you google song’s lyrics, you can find some interesting references in them.  Six pences was an actual wage for Blackbeard’s crew-members. You can check out whole lyrics analysis on Snopes.com, a website that focuses on explaining legends and their creditability.  
It is obvious that “Hoist the colours” was inspired by history of “Sing a song of sixpence”. A blackbird is an evident wordplay with Blackbeard. In the rhyme you can also find “queen in parlour” and a maid whose nose was snapped by, you guessed it, a blackbird! Some sources claim that original lyrics were “snapped her rose” instead of scary “snapped her nose”. Cutting face by a bird is not predictable scenario for a nursery rhyme. Maybe this last word (or wordplay nose/rose) was the proper way to sing the song in front of Blackbeard’s confederated. And not just him! Over the years the rhyme became associated with pirates recruiting. 

So, Hoist the colours mates!

Kraken is approving this song for night helm shift, ambient endings of parties on boat and for getting the crew to work early after morning! Not recommended as proper nursery rhyme for children, not recommended to be sang in front of coast guard, customs inspection or authority representative (especially The British ones). 

You can find more information about Blackbeard in our history category article about him.  Also don’t forget to check out our Pirate playlist” on Spotify and Youtube.
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