Shine and The Titanic

Shine and the Titanic is a spoken-word performance (in a form called a Toast) written in metre and rhyme that tells the story of Shine, an old Black stoker on the Titanic, who repeatedly warns the white captain of the impending disaster and is ignored and insulted. Throughout the song Shine humbly gives updates on the sinking ship. In his heroism, Shine refuses money from millionaires, sexual favours from white women and finally abandons the ship and manages to swim to shore. He is found drinking in a New York bar when news of the Titanic‘s demise arrives. His advice – “get your ass in the water and swim like me” – is well remembered.

Fair warning -the song contains lots of sexual innuendo and is definitely NSFW (Not Suitable For Workplace).

The fact that African-Americans were not allowed on board the luxury liner, except as workers, engendered some complicated feelings when the ship sank and so many drowned. Here’s a bit of background that addresses the reasons why these two stories jack Johnson and Shine) were circulated.



The version in Historic Canada

Shine and the Titanic

The 12th of May was one hell of a day
When the news got around
To all the seaport towns
That the great Titanic was sinking down.

Up stepped a Black man from the deck below (that they called Shine)
Hollerin’, “Captain, Captain, don’t you know
there’s forty feet of water on the boiler room floor”.

The captain said, “Go back, you dirty black,
we got a thousand pumps to keep this water back.

Shine went back below and began to think
That, umph, this big bad muthafucka is bound to sink.

Shine said, it’s fish in the ocean, crabs in the sea
But it’s one time you good cool white people ain’t gone bullshit me.

Shine went on the deck, jumped overboard,
waved his ass, begin to swim.
With a thousand millionaires lookin’ at him.

The captain’s wife stepped on the deck sayin’,
“Shine, Shine, please save poor me.
I’ll give you all the good pussy you can see.

Shine said, “Your pussy is good, and that is true,
but it’s some hoes down on 5th Street that’ll make an ass out of you!

There’s pussy on land, and pussy on sea.
I got twenty-five hoes in New York just waiting for me!

Captain’s daughter stepped on the deck sayin’,
“Shine, Shine, please save poor me.
Said, I’ll name this little kid after thee.”

Shine said, “Bitch, Ya knocked up and gone have a kid,
but your ass got to hit this water
just like ol’ Shine did.”

Here come the Captain,
“Shine, Shine please save me.
I’ll make you richer than any Shine can be.”

Shine said, “Captain, to save you would be very fine
but I got to first save this black ass of mine.”

Said, money on land and money on sea.
I got a thousand dollars in New York just waitin’ on me.

Shine said, “Shark, look out!
Said, I know some of this black ass you’d like to taste,
but from here to New York is gonna be one hell of a race.”

When the news got around the world
that the great Titanic had sunk,
Shine was in Harlem on a hundred and twenty-fifth street
damn near drunk.

The version in The African American goes thus:

Shine and the Titanic

It was a hell of a day in the merry month of May
When the great Titanic was sailing away.
The captain and his daughter was there, too,
And old black Shine, he didn’t need no crew.
Shine was downstairs eating his peas
When the . . .water come up to his knees.
He said, “Captain, Captain, I was downstairs eating my peas When the water come up to my knees.”
He said, “Shine, Shine, set your black self down.
I got ninety-nine pumps to pump the water down.”
Shine went downstairs looking through space.
That’s when the water came up to his waist.
He said, “Captain, Captain, I was downstairs looking through space,
That’s when the water came up to my waist.”
He said, “Shine, Shine, set your black self down.
I got ninety-nine pumps to pump the water down.”
Shine went downstairs, he ate a piece of bread.
That’s when the water came above his head.
He said, “Captain, Captain, I was downstairs eating my bread
And the . . .water came above my head.”
He said, “Shine, Shine, set your black self down.
I got ninety-nine pumps to pump the water down.”
Shine took off his shirt, took a dive. He took one stroke
And the water pushed him like it pushed a motorboat.
I’ll give you more money than any black man see.”
Shine said, “Money is good on land or sea.
Take off your shirt and swim like me.”
And Shine Swam on.
Shine met up with the whale.
The whale said, “Shine, Shine, you swim mighty fine,
But if you miss one stroke, your black self is mine.”
Shine said, “You may be the king of the ocean, king of the sea,
But you got to be a swimming son-of-a-gun to out-swim me.”
And Shine swam on.
Now when the news got to the port, the great Titanic has sunk,
You won’t believe this, but old Shine was on the corner damn near drunk.