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Friday Night Music Prompt # 56: The Mary Ellen Carter by Stan Rogers


Although he was only 33 when he died, Stan Rogers left behind a rich legacy of amazing songs. He was an incredible wordsmith, story teller, and musician.

Among his songs, is “The Mary Ellen Carter,” a very powerful anthem to holding on to hope, to dreams, to aspirations. A copy of the lyrics usually adorned my office to remind me of the power of believing. The Mary Ellen Carter remains my rock in wild seas.

The YouTube video has two takes of the song. The first is the raw, live performances I prefer to couple with the lyrics. Not the perfect pitch of the studio or more professional recording. The second version on the same video is smoother, and I think you get a better sense of Stan’s powerful voice.

When you listen/read the last verses, the anthem motif will become clear.  The song opens with a tragedy and closes with an anthem to optimism on how to see your way clear through the storm.



The Mary Ellen Carter

She went down last October in a pouring driving rain.

The skipper, he’d been drinking and the Mate, he felt no pain.

Too close to Three Mile Rock, and she was dealt her mortal blow,

And the Mary Ellen Carter settled low.

There were five of us aboard her when she finally was awash.

We’d worked like hell to save her, all heedless of the cost.

And the groan she gave as she went down, it caused us to proclaim

That the Mary Ellen Carter would rise again.

Well, the owners wrote her off; not a nickel would they spend.

She gave twenty years of service, boys, then met her sorry end.

But insurance paid the loss to them, they let her rest below.

Then they laughed at us and said we had to go.

But we talked of her all winter, some days around the clock,

For she’s worth a quarter million, afloat and at the dock.

And with every jar that hit the bar, we swore we would remain

And make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

Rise again, rise again!

That her name not be lost to the knowledge of men.

Those who loved her best and were with her till the end

Will make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again!

All spring, now, we’ve been with her on a barge lent by a friend.

Three dives a day in hard hat suit and twice I’ve had the bends.

Thank God it’s only sixty feet and the currents here are slow

Or I’d never have the strength to go below.

But we’ve patched her rents, stopped her vents, dogged hatch and porthole down.

Put cables to her, ‘fore and aft and girded her around.

Tomorrow, noon, we hit the air and then take up the strain.

And watch the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

For we couldn’t leave her there, you see, to crumble into scale.

She’d saved our lives so many times, living through the gale

And the laughing, drunken rats who left her to a sorry grave

They won’t be laughing in another day.

And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow.

With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go.

Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain

And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!

Rise again, rise again!

Though your heart it be broken and life about to end

No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend,

Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!

As usual, we’ll accept anything from staged karaoke filmed with an iPhone to Shakespearian-worthy sonnets. Anthems, sea shanties, folk stories, facing down adversity – plenty of themes to run with.

When you’re finished, tag the post Music Challenge and Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, and add you link to the mlmm linky button. Link to this post, or paste your post’s url into the comment section.

Like a good vj/dj, I’m open to musical suggestions. Put them in the comments box or email me: darkenedhouse@yahoo.com.

 As an added bonus, this video begins with a gentleman telling a compelling story about the song, then the same live clip. This piece is from a documentary about Stan’s life: One Warm Line. Don’t let the still photo dissuade you — there is a story to be told.

About a darkened house

{my} mind {is} the gap between a darkened house and a lightened room.

7 comments on “Friday Night Music Prompt # 56: The Mary Ellen Carter by Stan Rogers

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  5. Sanaa Rizvi (@rizvi_sanaa)
    August 19, 2016

    Love the prompt! Posting an old poem which dances around the theme and strikes the chord of optimism and hope ❤️ Cheers 🙂

    • a darkened house
      August 19, 2016

      Glad you liked it. I really feel it is the essence of caring and survival that we, each of us, no matter how far down, will rise again.

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