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I first came across "The Titanic" when browsing through Geoffrey Brace's Something to Sing but have only just (June 1999) taken it into my repertoire in an effort to be up-to-date. One of my acquaintances, having seen the same-named film endless times, is a great fan of all things relating to the "Titanic". Her interest provided the push for me to take another look at this song.
Due to my naval background, I think my initial aversion to this song lay in the contrast between the solemn verses and the flippant, jolliness of the chorus. The subject is serious enough. As Geoffrey Brace says in his footnote, the luxury liner Titanic went down with 1700 souls on the night of 14-15 April 1912 during her maiden voyage. So sure were the owners that she was unsinkable that there were insufficient lifeboats for the overcrowded ship.
I've slowly become aware that the chorus has a gospel "feel" to it and that perhaps the right way to interpret this song is indeed to sing this song as a gospel, with the emphasis on the futilities of mankind before its maker rather than as a sea-song dwelling on the appalling loss of life.
"The Titanic" has been recorded by:
Pete Seeger on "Headlines & Footnotes" CD(s) & MP3 Album(s)
Various Artists on "Titanic: Epic Songs Of The Sea"