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Pirates, Rogues, and Broadsides!
By Bill Schustik

Bill in pirate garbRogues and romance, macabre twists of fate, gruesome gaffes, belly laughs, ghost ships and treasure hunts; all make a musical escapade into the lore of piracy on the high seas. An ancient rhyme praises the daring of the Scots pirate, (Henry Martin). Drinking songs and shanties give testimony to excess, mortality, (Down Among the Dead Men, Drunken Sailor) and ultimate retribution. (Hanging' Johnny)

Hauntingly beautiful melodies capture mythical visions of seventeenth century fatalism, (The Three Horsemen, Why, Soldiers, Why). Broadside ballads...melodic news bulletins...tell of those who sailed under a "Letter of Marque" as a "privateer", a vaguely respectable but certainly legal form of warfare piracy. (Golden Vanity, Roll, Alabama, Roll [American Civil War], The Romantic Pirate)

These were the "good old days" when an execution was family entertainment, fun for everyone. If you were notorious enough you were hanged and then hung (after being dipped in tar so you wouldn't fall apart so fast). Some of these characters were studies in pure brutality, (Olloinios cut out a living heart and made another eat it because his questions weren't being answered quickly enough.) Some were colorful beyond plausibility (Edward Teach, in his final battle, killed 14 men after his head was more than half cut off). And some were hapless victims of fate and intrigue.

One famous fellow, though innocent of the charge of piracy, was framed by a broadside song and hanged twice. Three hundred years later everyone still thinks he was a pirate. No wonder his ghost still haunts that beautiful deserted cove in southeast New England. It's said his treasure is buried there. But what he's really looking for is his good reputation.

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