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Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)

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Three pirate musicians sing "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)".

"It's such a play on words and they come so fast, that even I couldn't sing the song without looking at a lyric sheet. But it's nice to know it's become so well known. I was down in Laguna Beach one time several years ago and there were some kids in a little dinghy out there on the water singing, 'Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.' That made me feel good."
X Atencio[src]

"Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" is a rousing sea chantey. It was the theme song for the original Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at Disney Parks. The music was written by George Bruns with lyrics provided by the attraction's scriptwriter, Francis "X" Atencio, or "X" as he was professionally and affectionately known. It would appear in various Disney media, including the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise.

Composition

"So after one meeting I said, 'I've got a little idea for a song for the pirate ride, Walt.' He said, 'Let's hear it.' I half recited and recited and half sang it and he said, 'Hey, that's great! Get George [Bruns] to do the music.' That was my first attempt at writing lyrics and that's how I became a songwriter."
X Atencio[src]

One of Walt Disney's Imagineers, Francis Xavier Atencio (or "X" as he was professionally and affectionately known), collaborated with veteran studio composer George Bruns to create "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)", which became one of the most memorable Disney theme park songs of all time.[1] Walt was concerned about how guests would react to some of the pirates' more lecherous behavior. It was X who convinced him that a rousing sea chantey might be a good way to help soften up these harden criminals. X also felt that a song would help create a strong sens of continuity for the show. The novice songwriter's approach was simple: "I just came up with some dialogue that the pirates might have said and set it to music." The classic phrase "Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum" (from the sea shanty found in Robert Louis Stevenson's 1881 novel Treasure Island) was a big part of the inspiration.[2]

Although X Atencio had confidence in his musical brainstorm, he never expected to be the one to actually write the number. "I had an idea for the lyrics and a kind of a little melody for a song for the ride, but I thought Walt would probably get the Sherman brothers ("It's a Small World (After All)" and "Chim Chim Cher-ee") to do it," X declares.[2] "So after one meeting I said, 'I've got a little idea for a song for the pirate ride, Walt.' He said, 'Let's hear it.' I half recited and recited and half sang it and he said, 'Hey, that's great! Get George [Bruns] to do the music.' That was my first attempt at writing lyrics and that's how I became a songwriter."[1]

X's lighthearted lyrics were then set to music by veteran studio composer George Bruns, best known for The Ballad of Davy Crockett. "When I did 'Yo Ho,' we couldn't have a beginning or an end," George said, "because you didn't know where you were going to come into the song in the ride. Each verse had to make some kind of sense, no matter when you heard it." Thus the music cues are in perfect length and synchronization to avoid an aural overload inside the attraction. The first-time lyric writer would go on to become a first-time director when he oversaw the recording of the attraction's dialogue and music tracks (with a little help from a young WED writer named Marty Sklar).[1]

"Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" helped the Imagineers turn their band of bloodthirsty brigands into more family-friendly rapscallions one of the of the jailed buccaneers. O'Malley is perhaps best known to Disney fans as the voice of Mr. Toad's noble steed, Cyril, in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, |Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland, and Colonel Hathi in The Jungle Book. Always one to get into his work, X Atencio himself supplied the voices of the talking skull and crossbones and the drunken pirate on the bridge whose hairy leg dangles above guests as their bateau sails beneath him. Under the baton of George Bruns, the song was recorded by the Mellomen, a singing group who had performed in a number of Disney film projects, including Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp. At the time of the Pirates recording session, the group was comprised of Bill Cole, Bill Lee, Max Smith, and the bass singer Thurl Ravenscroft, who would go on to take the lead on "Grim Grinning Ghosts" as a singing bust for The Haunted Mansion, as well as provide the distinctive voice of Tony the Tiger.[1]

Although he was not a writer per se, Atencio's script for the attraction and his first attempt as a lyricist would become classics. X Atencio's songwriting debut turned out to be just as successful as his first script, "It's such a play on words and they come so fast, that even I couldn't sing the song without looking at a lyric sheet." Atencio also said it was nice to know it's become so well known, recalling how he was in Laguna Beach one time and saw some kids in a little dinghy out on the water singing, "A Pirate's Life for Me," which made him feel good.[1]

Relation to Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney Parks

Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean

"Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" serves as the show's rousing theme song.[3] As the guests' boat passes the "Captain's Quarters" scene, the a bony corpse studies a map from a bed while a harpsichord plays a melancholy melody as well as a rousing rendition of the song. The guests drift further in Puerto Dorado, and when pulling alongisde a stable, where three merry pirate musicians are singing "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" as a dog and donkey bark and bray backup respectively as the show's grand finale begins.[4] The song continues as the pirates pillage, plunder, and burn up the town.

In the 2006 refurbishment of the ride, Jack Sparrow is seen singing while sitting in a chair in a room full of the town's hidden treasure, which he waves around happily while chattering to himself, and passing guests.

World of Color

The Disney's World of Color show briefly plays a young girl singing the song, prior to the Pirates of the Caribbean segment, in which a ship similar to the Black Pearl can be seen sailing towards the audience.

The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow

At the end of the attraction, Jack Sparrow sings the song to himself before the talking skull requests that guests sing "A Pirate's Life for Me" with them. The audio from the original Disney ride plays briefly as Jack Sparrow conducts the song while simultaneously drinking a bottle of rum.

Film series

The Curse of the Black Pearl

"I love this song! Really bad eggs! When I get the Pearl back, I'm gonna teach it to the whole crew, and we'll sing it all the time!"
Jack Sparrow to Elizabeth Swann[src]

The song is sung at the beginning of the film by young Elizabeth Swann. Elizabeth stood at the bow of the HMS Dauntless as she sang the song, described as "an old pirate shanty" in the film's junior novelization. She continued to sing the shanty as the Dauntless sailed through the Caribbean Sea until Joshamee Gibbs warned that "cursed pirates sail these waters"; he also warned Lieutenant Norrington that it was bad luck to be singing about pirates with them mired in this unnatural fog, and told him to mark his words.

Later in the film, when Elizabeth and Jack Sparrow were marooned on an island, they sang the song near a bonfire. Elizabeth and Jack, arms linked, danced around the large fire with their rum bottles in hand. Their voices echoed off the empty sea as they sang the familiar pirate shanty. "When I get the Pearl back," Jack said, his tone sounding quite serious, despite the bottle in his hand. "I'm going to teach that song to the whole crew, and we'll sing it all the time!" The latter is a reference to the never-ending actions of the Audio-Animatronics of the original attraction. As part of the final lines of the film, Jack Sparrow hums part of the song after taking the wheel of the Black Pearl, then sings a verse as he sets a new course.

Deleted scene
"What was that, Elizabeth?"
"It's Miss Swann. Nothing. Just a song I learned as a child when I thought it would be exciting to meet a pirate.
"
Jack Sparrow to Elizabeth Swann[src] (deleted scene)

In the deleted scene, titled "No Truth at All", while Elizabeth says "Drink up me hearties, Yo Ho" before drinking a bottle of rum. Baffled by her actions, Jack inquires of Elizabeth, who tells him it was a song she learned as a child when she thought it would be "exciting to meet a pirate". Jack requests her to sing it, saying "We've got the time", though Elizabeth said she'd need a lot more to drink. With a smile, Jack asked, "How much more?" The scene ends with Elizabeth and Jack dancing around the large fire with their rum bottles in hand.

Dead Man's Chest

While the song does not appear in the film, young Elizabeth Swann can be heard singing it in several trailers.

At World's End

As with Dead Man's Chest, young Elizabeth Swann can be heard singing the song in several trailers. However, the song is sung by Jack Sparrow at the very end of the film, in which Jack mutters the song to himself while beginning his voyage for the Fountain of Youth. The musical cue played during this scene is titled "Drink Up Me Hearties" in the film's soundtrack, which takes its title from the ride's theme song and Jack's final line of the film. In the "Ten years later" post-credits scene, Elizabeth Swann's son sings part of the song before watching the sunset and the green flash, which signals Will Turner's return from his duty aboard the Flying Dutchman.

On Stranger Tides

Like Dead Man's Chest, the song doesn't appear in the film, and it is the first Pirates sequel to not include it in the trailers. However, Jack Sparrow tells Joshamee Gibbs "It's a pirate's life for me," as the final line of the film. This particular line was used in some TV spots for the DVD/Blu-ray release.

Video games

Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned

"Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" is heard at the beginning of the game's trailer. It is unknown if the song would have appeared in the game as it was cancelled months before its set release.

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game

When a player completes all the main story missions, collect all the Minikits, get True Pirate on all levels, and find all the secret compass locations, a bonus level is unlocked. The level is a recreation of the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride, in which the theme music and the song itself is played in the background.

Other appearances

"Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" can be hear in a Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Color episode, which talked about the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. The musical score can be heard in the first part of the ride, and the song would be sung in the rest of the ride until the end of the episode. The song was also released in Disney's Greatest Hits Volume 3‎ and A Musical History of Disneyland.

In the Disney Adventures comic Revenge of the Pirates!, the first three lines of final stanza was sung by the Black Pearl crew. The first chapter of Jack Sparrow: The Coming Storm, which appears in the junior novelizations of Dead Man's Chest and On Stranger Tides, the chanty is sung by buccaneers, swashbucklers, and cutthroats down at Faithful Bride, drinking ale and rum.

Lyrics

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We extort, we pilfer, we filch, and sack,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
Maraud and embezzle, and even high-jack,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We kindle and char, inflame and ignite,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
We burn up the city, we're really a fright,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
We're rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
We're devils and black sheep, really bad eggs,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We're beggars and blighters, ne'er-do-well cads,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
Aye, but we're loved by our mommies and dads,
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.

Other Lyrics

These were used in an early demo version of the song:[5]

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
A pirates life is a happy life
Drink up me hearties, yo ho
A rollickin', frolickin', brawllickin' life
Drink up me hearties, yo ho.

Behind the scenes

"I just came up with some dialogue that the pirates might have said and set it to music. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum—that was a big part of the inspiration, that classic phrase."
X Atencio[src]

Appearances

Sources

External links

Notes and references

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