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Song Parodies -> "The Loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald"

Original Song Title:

"The Battle of New Orleans"

Original Performer:

Johnny Horton

Parody Song Title:

"The Loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald"

Parody Written by:

Patrick McWilliams

The Lyrics

We celebrate soldiers and policemen who risk their lives to serve the public. But many other working people risk their lives on a daily basis to bring us the goods and services that make our lives better. Consider the arctic fishermen depicted on "Deadliest Catch". Or the cannery workers who stand on their feet for hours at a time amidst knives and whirling machinery. The drudgery and danger of a steel mill. The cab drivers and convenience store clerks in high crime neighborhoods. 41 years ago this evening 29 men lost their lives hauling iron ore to a steel mill to be made into new cars. Each year we remember their courage and dedication to this vital job.
Nineteen seven five we planned an autumn trip
Across Lake Gitchee-Gummee on a giant cargo ship
We opened up the hatches and we filled the hold with ore
Then we sailed to the horizon and were never seen no more

The first day out things were rather uneventful
The water was calm and the air was clean and blue
But soon the wind started getting temperamental
Their were forces in the atmosphere that every sailor knew

McSorley said this would be a record run
Delivering the product by the hundred thousand ton
We'd show the skeptics that Fitzgerald's still the best
Then we'd sail her into Cleveland for a well-earned winter rest

The second night we felt the waves arising
The weather wasn't placid like it was the night before
The wind speed gauge showed a figure most surprising
While the Witch of November had a few more tricks in store

The old cook said that our dinner had to wait
'cause the galley was a-tilting, couldn't keep it on the plate
We went outside and we stared into the night
When the vessel started pitching we all lost our appetite

The captain knew there would be no help arriving
He sent a final message that the Fitz could hold her own
While the rogue waves surged with the west wind driving
In the teeth of a hurricane we're shaken like a bone

The Coast Guard searched when the morning light appeared
But soon came to the conclusion that the families had feared
When not a trace of Fitzgerald came in sight
They knew that she had vanished in the darkness of the night

They searched from the skies and they searched on the surface
Then they searched in places where a submarine could go
And when at last they found the Ed Fitzgerald
She was lying on the bottom several hundred feet below

Well, sunrise came and soon everybody knew
There wasn't one survivor of the twenty-nine man crew
As they mourned the loss of the men they held so dear
There would be no thanks for giving and there'd be no Christmas cheer

The families come to the Maritime Cathedral
Decades pass but the memories are the same
The salvaged bell from Fitzgerald plays the lead role
Chiming in commemoration as they read each sailor's name

Thanks to for the list of the twenty-nine men who perished on the night of November 10, 1975.

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Voting Results

Pacing: 4.3
How Funny: 4.3
Overall Rating: 4.4

Total Votes: 19

Voting Breakdown

The following represent how many people voted for each category.

    Pacing How Funny Overall Rating
 1   2
 2   1
 3   0
 4   2
 5   14

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Dr Giorgio Coniglio dec - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment
Almost as good as Lightfoot.
Captain's mate - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment
The Edmund Fitzgerald has some seven different theories on why it sank and broke in two. Gordon Lightfoot only advanced and supported one theory as it has never been resolved. As a sailor in my youth, I support the more plausible theory that she was overloaded and this caused structural collapse so severe that all were lost. The popular hatch flooding theory seems far-fetched to me. Whatever happened, it happened so fast that the crew could not abandon ship.
Guy - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment


This is one of the toughest kind of parody to write. Taking a popularly parodied song and using another OS while still telling the story of the OS. The reason that I know this is because I used a Carole King song to describe what happened to that poor soul in "Bohemian Rhapsody". I know this OS by Johnny Horton well. It may be just me but there may be a slight pacing problem in one or two spots but due to the complexity of writing this "dualish" parody is very forgivable.

I really like what you have done here. TWOTEF is one of the "Big 7" on AIR. AIR author, Michael Pacholek has been the "gate keeper", if you will for TWOTEF parodies. I'd like to see his take on this. I give this parody "a job well done" with wind speed of 55.5 nautical MPH.
Callmelennie - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment
To add to CM's theory -- The Fitz, because she riding lower in the water than usual may have hit Six fathom Shoal, which at its highest point, is only 21 feet under water. This may have cracked the bottom of the hull. Water may have seeped into the hull and been absorbed by the iron ore pellets, making the load even heavier .... Then when she was forced to go over the crest and back down into the trough of three rogue waves, that may have bust open the bottom of her hull and led to her rapid sinking
Rob Arndt - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment
Patrick, once again you provide a moving account of the sinking of the EF! 555! I've done a lot of maritime disasters, but mine are almost all tied to the Reich in one way or another. I think I did one or two TWOTEF.
Jonathan - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment
if Johnny Horton had sang the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald! 5s
Patrick - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment
Michael Pacholek wrote the first TWOTEF parody several years ago, in the form of "If Jimmy Webb Wrote 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".. If you look at my "Author's" page, you'll see that TWOTEF retellings became sort of a specialty with me. Last year Michael and I both posted parodies in commemoration of the 40th anniversary. He listed the crewmen's names in his introduction. This year, I noticed that a list of the crewmen's names would fit well at the end of the final verse, which tells of the act of ringing the commemorative bell. I believe the actual bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald is in a museum, but I think my artistic license is still up to date. The idea that the hatches were swamped seems a bit strange to me. I would assume they were closed. I read somewhere that the ship had struck that Six Fathom Shoal before, setting up a metal fatigue situation which eventually broke the ship in two. This parody originated a couple weeks ago when my brother told me he had seen Gordon Lightfoot performing the song on a local video channel. As a joke, he added, "But he did it to the tune of "The Battle of New Orleans". Anyone who has followed me on AIR knows what I would do with that. Especially with the anniversary approaching. "Battle of New Orleans" is the story of an actual event, so it is fitting to use for a historical tale. I'm also glad he didn't say "Bohemian Rhapsody", as that would be a bit more of a challenge than I would care to try. I haven't heard anyone mention the "Big Seven" for a long time. Didn't know anyone was still doing it. I've done several "TWOTEF" parodies, made a couple tries at "American Pie", which the late Tommy Turtle didn't care for, and a "Major General". Don't remember if I've tried any of the others, or even what they were. Glad you all liked this effort.
Callmelennie - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment
I did a TWOTEF parody using "Bohemian Rhapsody" and called it "Edmundian Rhapsody", Patrick. Didn't think it was too challenging; but then again I seem to have a knack for "Bo Rhap". I tried one with The Beatles "Rocky Racoon" and was stuck on that one for a while. I did a little research on the FitzGerald story to try to find an angle and learned about the Six Fathom Shoal theory .. and suddenly I had my angle ..... BTW, I still remember a line from one you did using the Turtles "Happy Together" -- Imagine ship and crew; ore too. Classic!
Patrick - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment
Went back and looked at "Edmundian Rhapsody" again. Has it really been four years? I've got one more challenge song out there, and if nobody takes me up on it, I may have another "Fitz". Guy, I looked up your gangbanger song. A friend of mine has had problems with local hoodlums and handled them in a similar way. You seem to have an affinity for Carole King. Do you know if she ever had an instrumental on a rare version of the "Tapestry" LP? I'm sure I saw one years ago, but can not confirm it anywhere. Oh, your description of the BP oil rig fire certainly fits into the maritime disaster category, same as the shipwreck.
Guy - November 10, 2016 - Report this comment


You reference a "gangbanger song" of mine. The only thing that comes to mind is OS "Auld Lang Syne" with parody title "All Gang Signs". It basically bombasted banger speak and how they get a cap busted in their butts just for using gang signs. I believe that a group of bangers Googled something like gang signs or whatever brought this parody up in the search engine search. About 6 months passed and someone told me to look at the comments on this parody. There were over 4,000 comments from all these bangers talking all their gang speak BS. Then I believe that a bunch of AIR writers jabbed for awhile at the bangers just having fun.

My future soul mate at the time had that Tapestry album about a hundred years ago and I believe that there was an instrumental of Tapestry on that album. My favorite musical instrument is piano. I wrote a lot of parodies of Billy Joel, Elton John and Carole King songs, partly because of the piano and alot of this music was of a ballad type which plays well for me because I have always been a story teller.

I don't like to blow my own horn and I was trying to relate in my comment that I understood the challenge to the writing of a popularly parodied song and using another OS while still telling the story of the OS. The "gangbanger song" reference is throwing me off so just to be clear what I was talking about was using Carole King's song "Tapestry" that told the story of the guy who is about to be executed for his crime in Bohemian Rhapsody and I believe the parody title was "Rhapsody".

I'm seriously thinking of writing again on AIR. If I do I look forward to trading comments with you. Likely I will write a few dozen parodies and then submit one per day for a while. So if I do come back it will be likely after New Years. Keep writing, you have great talent for this.

What troubles me now about the site is that most writers were liberals except for John Jenkins and me and a very few others. Now I see a lot of conservative writers and I see some ugly stuff. I enjoyed the banter with the lefties and mostly we agreed to disagree and respected each other's views. Once someone called me a xenophobe in a comment. I'm sure it was a joke and I wrote a parody entitled "Xenophobe". I always felt that you could write about anything and I did. The secret to a successful write, especially a touchy or policital parody needed to be "SNL" funny, that is back about 15 or 20 years when SNL was really funny. I often would comment in a disclaimer that said that I take full responsibility for anything and everything that I wrote on AIR. Like it or not it is what it is was my motto. If someone convinced me that I was wrong or ugly I would post an apology because I often made that disclaimer taking full responsibily for what I wrote.

If I begin again to write I will continue with this philosophy. For now I'm reading parodies and commenting on parodies that cut the mustard. I avoid negative commenting as much as possible. When there is a real need for negative feedback I am not afraid to put my name on it and tell it like it is. Hope we are trading comments soon on AIR. Sorry this comment is so long. It is a bad habit that I have always had since as I said I am a story teller. Ciao paisano.
Holy Harry - November 11, 2016 - Report this comment
In the First Coming, the Messiah was modest in mien and concise in comment. In the Second Coming, the Messiah-elect will be a self-important windbag. Otherwise, well-written parody.
Restless - November 11, 2016 - Report this comment
Reading what Guy wrote is the audio equivalent of listening to AM radio! Change the station, wait... just turn that sh*t off!
Reader - November 11, 2016 - Report this comment
So far, Guy has just been a self-centered, long-winded troll.
Miffed - November 11, 2016 - Report this comment


Rob Arndt - November 11, 2016 - Report this comment
Some odd facts that aren't generally mentioned about the EF that someone might want to incorporate into another parody: from its christening in November 1959, 'some' say that it may have been cursed." Apparently it took three hits with the champagne bottle before the bottle broke; the ship slid sideways out of the dock and hit the far side of the dock causing slight damage and a big wave; one onlooker dies of a heart attack on the spot. The sinking itself happened when the 700-foot ship was carrying 27,000 TONS, that's right TONs, of iron ore, and soon after it left harbor a major storm hit the lakes, some said the likes of which they had not seen since the devastating storm in ca 1913.

~ Dr. Sten Odenwald (Astronomer)
May 27, 2002
Patrick - November 11, 2016 - Report this comment
Gordon Lightfoot sings of "a load of iron ore, 26,000 tons more than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty". All accounts online show the actual cargo weight as about 26,000 tons. I'm still looking for a weight figure on the ship itself. A good parody writer should be able to put himself in another person's shoes and write from that individual's viewpoint. I look forward to more of your parodies in the future. If anyone can confirm the existence of an instrumental on a version of the "Tapestry" LP, I would be very thankful. I am withholding the name, but if you look online you may find an old article I wrote for a collector's publication years ago. The biggest problem nowadays isn't so much political rancor, but a lack of concern for pacing and rhythm. Tommy isn't around to police this anymore. I miss him.
Rob Arndt - November 11, 2016 - Report this comment
The ship's dry weight is listed as 13,000 tons. It could carry 26,000 tons. The iron ore load was 26,116 tons. No distress call, so whatever happened of all the theories must have been fast. I support structure failure per the load in that storm that rocked the boat. The monster wave and shoal theories are next best guesses IMO.

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