A Proper Mermaid Tail


This is a comedy parody sea chanty, and very fun to perform. The chorus allows for a wide variety of improvised harmonies.  It’s best live, of course, when you can see the facial expressions on the performers.

Composer’s Comment: In middle school, I heard two much older friends sing “The Clean Song” by Oscar Brand – it was the first bawdy folksong I’d heard and I loved it.  Years later I couldn’t remember anything but the topic and structure of the piece, so I wrote my own variation.

NOTE: this is usually sung with two voices interrupting one another on alternating lines (marked A and B) and then harmony on the chorus. Singer A should seem to interrupt singer B on the last line of each verse. In the last verse, it should appear that singer A was going to interrupt before ‘their way with her’ but singer B claps a hand over singer A’s mouth to prevent the interruption, and then singer A retaliates with the final line. Or it can be sung with just one singer.


A) I’ll sing of a ship, ’twas both gallant and true
B) And carried aboard her a masterful crew
A) But there was not a woman on all of the decks
B) And all of the sailors were longing for-
A) Singing, and I know what all of you out there were thinking.

Sing Nu-nonny-nonny nu-nonny-nonny
And nothing remotely improper ensued.
Nu-nonny-nonny nu-nonny-nonny
For we would not want you to think we were rude.

A) And what should they find but a mermaid so fair,
B) With fine flowing fins and long purple hair
A) They gazed at her spellbound, crew captain and all
B) When they saw that that mermaid wore nothing-
A) Very strange, a fine modest maid made an excellent change.


A) They cast out long nets as they circled the cape
B) And the buxom young mermaid could hardly escape
A) They hauled her on board with hope in their chests
B) And grappled that mermaid right under her-
A) Elbows, for they were a pack of most courteous fellows.


A) They laid her on deck and her fine figure sparkled
B) And all of the men stood agape as they marveled
A) They eyed her as if they were gazing on Venus
B) And in turn each sailor presented his-
A) Hand, and showed her politeness most wonderfully grand.


A) And when they were done with old Triton’s fair daughter
B) They dropped her exhausted back into the water
A) For each man on board had had a long stay with her
B) In which time the sailors had all had their way with her
A) But just ’cause she told them that it was okay with her.

Sing Nu-nonny-nonny nu-nonny-nonny
See! Nothing remotely improper ensued!
Nu-nonny-nonny nu-nonny-nonny
And we hope that you do not think we’ve been rude.