International Talk Like a Pirate Day is Sept. 19 and if you want a playlist to yo, ho, ho your theme party, you've come to the right place. Over the years, a number of popular artists have used pirates and piracy as an inspiration either for new material or to cover traditional pirate or sea shanties.
11. Key & Peele- “Pirate Chantey”
What if pirates got a bad rap and are really gentlemen? That's the premise of Key & Peele's hilarious “Pirate Chantey.” With lyrics about consent, women's choice, and not objectifying women, this is a great change of pace song for any pirate playlist. Just remember, “we yo, ho, ho, but we don't say ho. 'Cause ho is disrespectful.”
10. Richard Thompson- “Mingulay Boat Song”
Richard Thompson has always been a great respecter of tradition, so it's no surprise that he has put his iconic voice and British folk guitar to a sea shanty. In this case, it's “Mingulay Boat Song.” The original dates to the 1930s and has roots even farther back into Gaelic tradition. In Thompson's hands, it's a mournful song of a sailor longing for the comforts of home at the end of a long journey. Not technically a pirate song, but a sentiment any good pirate could share.
9. Alice Cooper and John Entwistle- “Space Pirates”
Not all pirates have to sail on the water. Anyplace there are ships to be plundered, you'll find pirates. At least that's the premise of “Space Pirates,” a song by Alice Cooper and The Who's John Entwistle from the album Flash Fearless vs. the Zorg Women, Pts. 5 & 6. The premise of the album was to put a Flash Gordon-style pulp comic hero's story to music and Cooper, in typical Alice Cooper fashion, got the job of bringing the villains to life.
8. Hans Zimmer- “Pirates of the Carribean- Main Theme”
You can't have a pirate playlist without including something from the most recognizable pirate of the modern era, Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. Or, in this case, his musical theme song, courtesy of composer Hans Zimmer. While it doesn't have lyrics, Zimmer's swelling strings, blaring horns, and crashing percussion perfectly captures the frenzy of the pirate life without needing them.
7. Running Wild- “Under Jolly Roger”
Pirate metal is an entire subgenre of heavy metal and you could easily fill a playlist with songs from their catalog. A good place to start is with Running Wild. While in existence since 1976, Running Wild didn't embrace their inner pirates until 1987 with the release of the album Under the Jolly Roger and the single of the same name.
6. Jimmy Buffett- “A Pirate Looks at 40”
It's all well and fine to be a pirate in the 16th Century, but what happens when you feel a call to piracy in the modern age? That's the theme of boat rocker Jimmy Buffett's 1974 song “A Pirate Looks at 40.” In it, Buffett's narrator laments that “I'm a pirate 200 years too late. Cannons don't thunder, there's nothing to plunder, I'm an over 40 victim of fate.” It's a little depressing for a party playlist, but Buffett's always affable brand of country rock saves it from being too dark.
5. The Pogues and The Dubliners- “Irish Rover”
“Irish Rover” is a traditional song that has been recorded by any number of artists over the years and can be heard at pretty much any Ren Faire on any given weekend. But when two generations of legendary Irish musicians, in this case, The Dubliners and Irish punk pioneers The Pogues, put their hand to it, it's something special. This tale of a shipwreck is given an extra boost of energy from the combined voices of Ronnie Drew and Shane MacGowan.
4. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem- “Drunken Sailor”
Arguably the most famous sailor song in history, “Drunken Sailor” is a must at any pirate party, especially late in the evening. It's another tradition song that has been recorded innumerable times but once again the best bet is to go with the Irish traditionalists The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, who have recorded entire albums of drinking songs and know how to do them right. Put it on and tape your friends singing “hoo-ray, up she rises, early in the morning!”
3. Bob Marley- “Redemption Song”
This is another song that isn't strictly about pirates on the whole, but when your tune starts with “Old pirates, they rob I, sold I to the merchant ships,” it clears the theme. A rare solo acoustic ballad from Bob Marley recorded near the end of his life, “Redemption Song” is about freeing yourself mentally, even if your body is not.
2. Alestorm- “Keelhauled”
While Running Wild might be one of the first pirate metal bands, Scottish band Alestorm is by far the most successful. Their upbeat melodies and lyrics that recall the best sing-along parts of sea shanties, they have performed high profile shows in America, including on the Warped Tour in 2017. Anything from Alestorm will work for a pirate playlist, but the best is “Keelhauled,” a shanty about a thieving crewman who is punished while his shipmates party.
1. Flogging Molly- “Seven Deadly Sins”
Flogging Molly is always a good choice no matter what kind of party you're planning but they're even more perfect for a pirate party with one of their most raucous toe-tappers, “Seven Deadly Sins.” This song, from 2004's Within a Mile of Home, is full of drunken pirates, balls and chains, and lots and lots of sins. What could be more pirate than that?