NOTE TO SINGERS:
Problem: You find a song you like. You can't sing it in the original
Solution: Email me (zouki (at) earthlink dot net) and I'll send you a
version transposed to whatever
key you want!
SONGS ON THIS WEBSITE
The CAPE COD BEAR
In June 2012, a young male bear
decided to visit Cape Cod by (apparently) swimming across the Cape
Cod Canal. He became an instant celebrity - no bears have been on the
Cape for many many years -
and this little song is intended to commemorate his visit!
a link to the story - enjoy!
It isn't easy looking at one's life and coming to this
conclusion. This song explains how I accomplished it!
The "ALL YOU CAN EAT" BUFFET
This little ditty commemorates a recent trip to one of those
Chinese places where you pig out, in spite of your best intentions not
to. Anyway it was a very enjoyable family day!
I consider myself moderately well-versed in Irish history, at least to
the extent of being familiar with names, but I had never heard of Anne
(1780-1851) until I came across a chapter about her in a book about
Dublin. The story immediately suggested itself to me as worthy material
for a song. I hope you agree!
SEPTEMBER 11TH ("We're Coming for You, Brother!")
Dedicated to the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice on
that day, which indeed we will never forget. May God hold them and
their families in the palm of His hand.
Guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart (or wherever you
keep your cockles) next time "The Holiday Season" rolls around!
BALLAD of the "MAERSK ALABAMA"
My tribute to Captain Richard Phillips and the crew of the "Maersk
Alabama". The pirates who attacked this US-flag ship off the Horn of
Africa in April of 2009 really got more than they bargained for,
including the opportunity to provide target practice for some Navy
OF THE FAIR
The Susquehanna River website says:
It winds its way south from Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, New York,
through the northern and central ranges of the Appalachian Mountains in
Pennsylvania. By the
time it meets the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River has flowed 444
miles. With an average daily
rush of 22 billion gallons of water, the Susquehanna is the largest
contributor of freshwater to
Factual but not descriptive of this lovely river, which meanders
through much picturesque country on its way to the bay. (Some of my
maternal ancestors were farmers in the Afton/Nineveh
area of Chenango County, NY, through which the Susquehanna flows. I
didn't know this when I wrote the song.)
Some of the country the river flows through was once active coal-mining
country - a few of the mines remain, but many are closed down. In
their heyday, however, the mines
provided work for generations of immigrant laborers and their sons and
song is dedicated to all of them, especially the Irish contingent.
This a more-or-less "art song" that I composed many years back and
recently revised. It didn't originally have anything to do with Texas
and I'm not sure how or why it does now.
It's dedicated to my Hill Country friends Butch (RIP) and Jackie Greene.
The success of this piece would seem to depend on it being performed in
the right place at the right time, by the right singer (not too much to
No vocal MP3 of this yet but the MIDI file will give you an idea of how
They will always be necessary in this troubled world. God be kind to
them all and keep them safe as they go about their task.
We never had coyotes here on the Cape until a few years back.
Nobody is quite sure how they got here but they're here now, and
evidently here to stay!
This is one of the first songs I ever wrote. We had at least two cats
at the time and I guess I was inspired by the way they can manage to go
off into a groove somewhere, regardless
of what was going on around them.
I love dogs too, but they're not anywhere near as introspective
(or "mysterious") as cats seem to be. What you see with a dog is what
you get; with a cat you get what the cat wants
you to get. All clear?
They say you should write about what you know, so this song is
based on my background in the deep-sea shipping business. If you're not
sure what a ship pilot does, this song
will help you understand. (So far the song seems to be very well
received, for which I am grateful!)
This song is dedicated to the memory of just such a pilot, Capt. Lyn
lost his life boarding a vessel in stormy seas off Cape Henry VA in
This was composed during the "bossa nova" craze of the late
Sixties and early Seventies, when everyone was in love (rightfully so!)
music, and performers like Antonio Carlos Jobim
and Astrud Gilberto were so popular.
The funny thing is that - unlike 99 percent of other musical fads -
bossa nova and samba are really excellent music, and they have
manifested a great staying power over the years to prove
So this and "Little Girl" are my intended contributions to a great
durable musical genre. Viva bossa nova!
This is an older song, composed during a New York blizzard (1972?)
while I was recovering from a dislocated shoulder (which gave me an
excuse for sitting around looking out the
window a lot).
I still like snow, but after a few Cape Cod winters, I think
I've seen enough to last me a few hundred years.
If you think that the Roe v Wade decision
was a great contribution to
human happiness (and that we should continue shovelling taxpayer
dollars to Planned Parenthood), this is probably NOT the
song for you.
This is a romantic ballad that will I hope be meaningful to anyone who
has shared life with a dog. A certain "willing suspension of disbelief"
would come in handy as you listen to the
lyrics, but never forget that even the dumbest dog is roughly 2.78
smarter than any human.
This song is dedicated to the women of Dublin, all "of a certain age",
who will always represent to me the kindness and civility that may be
in the process of
disappearing forever (and not only from Dublin).
So this is for Rosie, and Chrissie, and Kitty, and Fanny, and all the
other ladies about whom it may truthfully be said: their likes will not
be seen again. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to
spend time with them.
Words of this song can be found (with no music or attribution as to
Maureen Jolliffe's "Third Book of Irish Ballads" (Mercier, Cork, n/d).
The tune is mine (as are a few minor tweaks of the words).
I mention in the commentaries to other songs that many songs that I
write are based on a composite experience, so that the protagonists in
the songs are not individually real but are a
synthesis of different real people.
This is certainly true of this song, which is a snapshot of the life of
an young immigrant who is in the process of realizing that his time in
America has not met - and maybe will never
meet - his expectations. I've encountered a lot of people like this
over the years, and you probably have too.
This could be a great song in the right hands (or throat). Feels like
San Francisco but actually based on New York.
The story of the Four Chaplains who perished so tragically aboard the
ship "Dorchester" in February 1943 has always been an inspiring one,
but as years pass fewer and fewer
people will remember the incident or the incredible sacrifice made by
heroic men of God. This is my
attempt to rekindle interest in the subject before it disappears from
our national consciousness entirely. (There's
an excellent website
for those interested in finding out more about the Four Chaplains.)
GERASIMUS AND JORDAN
This song tells the lovely story of a 5th century saint and his
feline companion. It's taken (with some "artistic license" involved)
from Fr. Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints, Complete Edition
(edited by Thurston and Attwater). St. Gerasimus' feastday is March 5th.
This is a song version of a poem by Frances "Fanny" Parnell
(1848-1882), the "Patriot Poet" who was
the sister of the Irish patriot Charles Stuart Parnell and every bit
when it came to agitating for
land reform in 19th-century Ireland. Fanny spent most of her time and
for the Irish cause in the
United States, living in New Jersey with her American mother (whose
father was one of
the commanding officers of the USS Constitution).
Fanny died of heart failure in New Jersey but is buried in Mount Auburn
Cambridge, Mass., just outside Boston.
Verses 1-3 of this version were quoted in "History Ireland" magazine,
Spring 1999 edition; verse 4 quoted in an article by Willie White in
Nationalist [newspaper], Jan.14  edition).
Thanks to Seán Brennan and Nikki Engstrom for including this on
their fine CD "Another Round".
OLD MAN TO DANCE!
If you've ever attended a dance, Irish or otherwise, where there were
some older folks in attendance, you should be able to appreciate this
One of my first "formal" composition efforts. I'm not sure if it's a
folk song or an "art" song, but I hope you'll be able to enjoy it on
either level! (Note: due to the welcome - and one hopes permanent
- political changes in Northern
the lyrics have
undergone considerable revision in recent years.)
POINT MY FEET
This song began its existence as I was flying over Eastern Virginia
headed to Camp Lejeune NC, the largest Marine base on the East Coast.
My son was stationed there at the time.
The rights and wrongs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be
debated for many
years, but I don't think there's any dispute - in the US at least -
about the heroic role being
played by our military personnel on the ground over there. This song is
all of them. Blessed indeed be the peacemakers!
LIGHT! (The True Story of Katie Walker)
While I was doing some research on an unrelated aspect of New York
history, I came across the remarkable story of Katie Walker, who served
as keeper of the
Robbins Reef lighthouse for 33 years until she retired in 1919.
The Robbins Reef lighthouse still stands in New York harbor, but
it's been unmanned (or, in this case, unwomanned) for many years. New
Yorkers who commute back and forth
to Staten Island know the lighthouse very well, even if they don't know
its name, since
it stands less than a mile from the ferry terminal in St. George.
Evidently it continues serving to this day as a "lighted aid to
navigation" - Katie would indeed be proud!
There are several versions of Katie's story on the Internet, including
the version written in 1999 by
Captain T.P. Harris for the SailNortheast website.
It's called Mind the Light - the
Story of Kate Walker.
source is the article on the
(Note that I use both "Kate" and "Katie"
in the song - artistic license and all that!)
WE BY THE
Another of my attempted contributions to the Christmas repertoire. I
TTBB choral version of this.
Another "bossa nova" wannabe! Great music came out of Brazil in the
1960's and 1970's, and the nice part is that it's still heard and
The sailors who sacrificed so much during their service in the Merchant
Marine during World War II never (to the best of my knowledge) had
their own "service song" to
commemorate what they had done. This is my contribution to the memory
of these brave but largely forgotten heroes, without whose efforts the
course (and the result) of WW II might have been entirely different.
I'm not a "morning person" in the sense of jumping happily out of bed
at 6:00 a.m. to take my cold shower and morning jog. I'll put up with
morning but I'll do it under protest and in the firm belief that the
only reason mornings exist is to allow your stomach time to get ready
for lunch. And forget about cold showers and
jogs. Anyway this song should help
elucidate my feelings.
My tribute to the traditional musicians of past, present, and future
who have brought so much to my life and will continue to bring their
gifts to the world long after I'm gone.
A tribute to the heroes, military and otherwise, that we see in action
every day. Please God we will never take them for granted!
TRUST THE SEA
A song in John Conolly ("Fiddler's Green") or Stan Rogers style (I
hope) about those who
make their living from the sea. When I wrote this song, we weren't
aware of the fact that there were actual
fishermen in our (my wife's) family. Since they fished out of Kilkeel
(County Down), I changed the original lyrics
from "My family were fishermen from the WESTERN coast of Ireland" to
"NORTHERN coast". Otherwise the sentiments
are the same.
This song is based on a true story, an amazing one at that, concerning
the 1876 rescue of some Irish Fenian prisoners from an Australian jail
by a New Bedford whaler named
"Catalpa". It's a great story and would probably make a wonderful movie
or action cartoon (or whatever they're
called these days.)
Here's the basic plot:
"On a sunny afternoon 127 years ago today, one of the most brazen
rescue missions in history was launched from New Bedford. Setting out
in a whaling ship called The Catalpa,
Capt. George Smith Anthony was determined to spring six Irish rebels
from the notorious Australian prison,
Fremantle Gaol, where they had been incarcerated by the English."
- Peter F. Stevens, The Voyage of
the Catalpa: A Perilous Journey and Six Irish Rebels
There's a lot of information on this topic on the Internet, but a
concise article on the rescue can be found at:
CREATOR OF LIFE
My words (religious) to the tune of the Irish traditional song "Ar
nEosfainn Ce hI" ("For Ireland I'd Not Tell
When you say one thing and mean another, is that irony? If so, this
song is loaded with it (vitamin C and selenium too).
"A trip down Memory Lane..." (as Joe Franklin - remember him? - used to
I was very lucky to grow up in a great neighborhood (the Fort Hamilton
section of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn) and this is my
tribute to it. (By the
way - it hasn't changed a heck of
a lot in 50+ years!)
I always thought this would be a great song for Tony Bennett but then
I'm always thinking dopey thoughts.
If you're ever lucky enough to visit Juneau, Alaska, you might come
across the statue of a dog down by the harbor. That dog is Patsy Ann, a
bull terrier of sorts who was the official
greeter of the city for many years. (Here's a link to a website that has
more information.) She's well deserving of this
modest musical tribute!
This song celebrates the back roads and "blue highways" of America.
a great country, but sometimes you have to get off the interstate to
see it (taking the train is another good way).
This is a neat little song from Colm O Lochlainn's "More Irish
Street Ballads" (Pan Books, 1978, out of print but copies probably
available online somewhere). The words were written by Arthur
Griffith, Dubliner, member of Sinn Féin, and father of the
Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. There's no melody given or alluded to in O
Lochlainn's book, so I made
one up. I hope it's adequate to the task! (I've changed a few of the
lyrics here and there - nothing serious.)
Rockaway is a peninsula in the southern part of Queens County in New
York City. It's located between Kennedy Airport and
the ocean, and is
now (as it has been for
many years) mainly a residential area. It's a very popular place in the
summer, and its
sandy beaches are always crowded.
We were talking to our friend Pat O'Brien a while back, and Pat
mentioned that Rockaway was the first place he had stayed
to America from Ireland. This didn't surprise me, since from years back
until fairly recently, Rockaway was predominantly an Irish
neighborhood. For many other
Irish immigrants besides Mr. O'Brien it was the first stop on their
journey into American
I had never heard a song about Rockaway before, so I thought it might
be time to write one before the Irish connection was even
more of a
memory than it is now.
This song is dedicated to Pat and Kay O'Brien (Kay - Pat's late wife,
may she rest in peace - was
from the Bronx, but that's another story!)
Saint Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx is one of the largest in the
city of New York. Over much of its recent history, the
Bronx has had a largely
Irish population, so it shouldn't come as a
surprise that many of the names on the stones of Saint
This song commemorates the fact that there are three great fiddlers -
Michael Coleman, James Morrison, and Johnny Cronin -
buried in Saint
Raymond's. (Another legendary fiddler, Andy McGann, was laid to rest
there in 2004, but he was still alives when
There are doubtless hundreds more musicians and friends of traditional
music buried in Saint Raymond's as well, and this song
is dedicated to
all of them. May they all rest
in peace until that Big Session in the Sky gets rolling!
This is a song based on a composite of experiences of young Irishmen
getting involved in situations they probably would have avoided if they
had known better
(or been in a different place at a different time). It's a sort of an
updated version of "The Kerry Recruit". It's an old
sad story and it's
hard to say if it's finally come to an end or not.
This is a long song, but then again, most wars are long wars. And at
least the song has a (more or less) happy ending.
In the westernmost part of Ireland - a place way out in County Galway
called Connemara - there's a road that runs for miles
along the cliffs
looking over the
ocean. It's difficult to describe how beautiful it is out there along
the Sky Road - or how easy
it would be to fall in love!
THAN A ROSE
This song was inspired by an article in the newspaper about an incident
that took place outside a local "women's health facility"
the euphemism du jour was at the time)
some years back. The details were
pretty graphic and I don't repeat them
in the song, but I hope my words
capture some of the sadness of the event.
(Where Do We Go From Here?)
Every time that it appears that a real honest-to-God peace process has
taken hold in Northern Ireland, something comes along
to throw cold
water on it -
a parade, a bank robbery, yet another killing for no apparent reason,
forth. Sooner or later
everyone will get it right, and progress will
definitely continue in closing a long sad page of history.
Ships have always been considered mysterious and romantic (although
when you have to stand on a pier somewhere at 4:00 am
on a cold January
morning waiting for one to tie
up, the mystery and romance might not be too obvious).
There are lots of great sea songs around, some of them traditional and
some of them composed (think "Fiddler's Green" or "The Mary Ellen
My friend and musical mentor Tom Goux is a great fan and performer
of these songs, and has
introduced many folks to them in the course of his career as solo
musician and choral conductor.
It occurred to me at one point that the world of today's shipping
doesn't supply a lot of material for the creation of new shanties -
fortunately there are plenty of old ones
around. But I thought it might be fun to try an "updated" shanty, more
"relevant" to the 21st-century sea-going
START A NEW LIFE
This is my light-hearted perception of the Irish emigrant experience. I
have a great deal of respect for the men and women who left the
security (if not necessarily the comfort) of their
native land to come to America, never knowing whether they would be
successful and/or happy in this country so
different in so many ways from their own.
Like many of my songs, this one is based on a composite of different
experiences. The hero is a fictional character, but I hope that there's
reality about his life as described in the song to make it seem as if
we've met him
I guess the idea is not necessarily to wait until you're closing in on
60 years of age to fulfill a lifelong dream, especially one that
- as I was dismayed to discover - involves intense
But I had always wanted to work on a tugboat, and when the opportunity
presented itself, I leaped at the chance.
"Thuban" is a little tug that operates in the waters around Vineyard
Sound and Buzzards Bay, towing an oil barge and occasionally a gravel
and forth from the Vineyard to New Bedford and other exotic ports. In
weather it's nice work; in foul weather it's awful. But, as the saying
goes, somebody has
to do it.
My career as a tug deckhand was short-lived but - as my ever-sensible
wife says - at
least I can say I tried it!
Composed to honor the veterans of Falmouth, Mass.
on their special days (Memorial Day and Veterans' Day). (There is a
TTBB choral version of this on the BBWorks
This is my personal effort to provide a substitute for the "Wedding
Song" that always seems to be performed (not always well) by one of the
bride's cousins - you
know the one: she was a flower child back in 1969 and still has the
twelve-string guitar and a Doors poster to prove it. (AND she has every
Peter Paul and Mary LP ever made.)
WILD NORWEGIAN BOY
For our good friend and fine musician Mark Oien, who is justifiably
proud of his Norwegian roots. (The tune of course is "Wild Colonial
Boy", which I'm guessing is so well known as not to need notation and
YOU POINT OUT
MY WIFE IF YOU SEE HER?
This is a song with an honest-to-God title, i.e. the words were
actually spoken by a living human being that you know and I know and
we'll say no more about it
except to note that this is not a work of fiction, merely of
embellishment, as many better
men than I will confirm. ("Rick" is a clever pseudonym designed to
protect the good reputation of the protagonist.)
(A) SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT CHRISTMAS SONG
My tribute to that special kind of Christmas we've all
at least once in our lives!
FIREMEN (Ballad in Traditional Style: For the Worcester Firemen)
On December 3rd, 1999, a
devastating fire in an abandoned warehouse in Worcester, MA, took the
lives of six brave firefighters.
This song is a memorial to these men, and by extension a statement of
gratitude to all the brave firefighters who selflessly put their lives
on the line for us every single day.