Sailor (song)

Sailor (song)

Sailor (original title: Seemann (Deine Heimat ist das Meer)) is a song written by Werner Scharfenberger and Fini Busch which via a 1960 recording by Lolita became an international hit, with its #5 peak on the Hot 100 chart in Billboard making "Sailor" the most successful American hit sung in German until 99 Luftballons by Nena in 1984.

With English lyrics written by Norman Newell (credited as "David West") the song also provided a comeback vehicle for two veteran UK vocalists: Petula Clark and Anne Shelton whose respective versions of "Sailor" were both musical milestones for each singer marking Clark's first #1 on the UK Singles chart and Shelton's final chart appearance.


Northern European versions

The Lolita version - originally entitled "Seemann (Deine Heimat ist das Meer)" - entered the German Top 20 in March 1960; peaking at #2 in June. Lolita's single was in the Top 20 for ten months and was the fourth biggest German hit of the year.[1] In December 1960 the single's B-side "La Luna" also became a chart hit reaching #30. It was also featured in the film "Schick deine Frau nicht nach Italien"[2]. Estimate for global sales of "Seemann (Deine Heimat Ist Das Meer)"/ "Sailor (Your Home is the Sea)" by Lolita is two million units.

There was immense US media interest in Germany in 1960 due to the political situation in Berlin and also Elvis Presley's being stationed on a West German airbase: this likely factored into Kapp Records' decision to release Lolita's German hit in the US. [3]

Re-entitled "Sailor (Your Home is the Sea)" the US single - which augmented Lolita's original German vocal with a spoken word translation by British actress Maureen Renée - reached #5 on the Hot 100 chart in Billboard in December 1960. One of only two German language songs to become a Top 10 hit in the United States (See 99 Luftballons by Nena), "Sailor..." also afforded Lotlita a hit in Australia (#14), Japan (Top 20) and New Zealand reaching #8 in the latter territory despite the #1 ranking achieved there by the Petula Clark English rendering "Sailor".

"Seemann..." also provided Lolita with a hit in Norway where it spent nine weeks at #1 in the spring of 1961 with sales of 50,00 units recognized that October with the awarding of a Gold Disc.[4] A Norse rendering by Jan Høiland entitled "Sjømann" concurrently charted spending two weeks at #2. In Sweden "Seemann..." reached #5 sharing the charts with a translated cover version by Towa Carson who in Jun 1961 reached #9 with "Sjöman" (a double A-sided hit with "Sista Dansen" ie. "Save the Last Dance for Me").[5] "Sjöman" had first been recorded by Thory Bernhards in a 12 October 1960 session, the Swedish lyrics being the work of Åke Gerhard whose composition "Ann-Caroline" - first sung by Benhards - had coincidentally developed into "Lay Down Your Arms" the career record of Anne Shelton who would have a Top Ten UK hit with "Sailor".[6]

Caterina Valente covered Lolita's hit for the Dutch market: in the autumn of 1960 her version - entitled "Zeeman" - charted in the Netherlands and reached #10 on the charts for the Flemish region of Belgium. Even so the Lolita original itself reached the Dutch Top Ten and in Flemish Belgium - co-ranked with Petula Clark's English rendition - Lolita's "Seemann" reached #12.[7] "Zeeman" was also recorded by the Fouryo's and a 1981 remake by Ciska Peters - as "Zeeman, Je Verlangen Is Dezee" - reached #19 in the Netherlands.

Géraldine Olivier[8] has remade the original German version - as "Seemann, deine Heimat ist das Meer" - for her 2009 album Maritime Welthits der 50er und 60er.

English version


Lyricist Norman Newell would recall that his publisher phoned him on a Friday requesting he write English lyrics for Lolita's hit ""Seemann...": although Newell agreed to prepare the lyrics over the weekend the assignment slipped his mind until a messenger arrived Monday morning to pick up Newell's work. "I sent [the messenger] to the canteen and wrote the lyric 'Sailor' in ten minutes."[9]

Petula Clark

Alan A. Freeman, who regularly produced Petula Clark, suggested she record "Sailor" and produced Clark's recording in a session which featured guitarists Vic Flick and Big Jim Sullivan.[10] Freeman was assisted with the production of "Sailor" by Tony Hatch marking the first collaboration between Clark and her future hitmaking mentor.

"Sailor" debuted at #18 in the UK Top 50 dated 28 January 1961, becoming Clark's first UK chart entry since "Baby Lover", #12 in March 1958, an intermittent ten single releases having failed to chart. [11] A sales total of 250,000 units for Clark's "Sailor" was announced by Pye Records the week of 18 February 1961 when the single was in its second week at #2: on the chart for the following week: that of 23 February 1961, Clark's "Sailor" moved to the #1 position of the UK chart, besting Clark's previous strongest UK charter: the #4 "With All My Heart" (1957). Although "Downtown" was to become Clark's signature song its UK chart peak would be #2: the second Petula Clark single to reach #1 UK would be "This is My Song" in 1967.[12]

Clark's "Sailor" became the third hit version of the song in the Netherlands (#13) and - in a tandem ranking with ""Seemann (Deine Heimat Ist Das Meer)" by Lolita - reached #12 on the chart for the Flemish Region of Belgium.[13] "Sailor" was #1 in New Zealand and Israel in respectively March and September 1961. A hit in Denmark (#9) and Spain (Top 20), "Sailor" reached #2 in South Africa in 1961 and when re-released there as the follow-up to "This is My Song" in 1968 reached #9.[11]

[14] Both of Clark's UK #1 hits would compete with rival versions: "Sailor" would be a #10 hit for Anne Shelton[15] while Harry Secombe's version of "This is My Song" would rise as high as #2. [16] (The relevant recordings by both Shelton and Secombe have Wally Stott perform arranging and conducting duties.)[17][18]

Anne Shelton

Another veteran British vocalist: Anne Shelton, also utilized "Sailor" as a comeback vehicle. Like Clark's version, Shelton's featured guitarist Big Jim Sullivan.[19]

Shelton had spent four weeks at #1 UK with "Lay Down Your Arms" in 1956 but had since only had one further chart record: " The Village Of St. Bernadette" #27 in 1959, when her version of "Sailor" reached #10 in January 1961. Although she'd been recording since 1943 "Sailor" was only her fifth UK chart appearance as her most intense period of popularity had pre-dated regulated record-sales chart formatting in the UK (which began in 1952, prior to this sales of music sheets with or without record sales were common marker of a tune's popularity [20]).

Shelton's strongest association was as an entertainer of the forces in World War II:[17] while this made "Sailor" a good thematic choice for her this association also probably made her seem outmoded (despite only being four years Clark's senior) and although Shelton's version of "Sailor" and Clark's both debuted on the UK Top 50 for 28 January 1961 there was immediate preference apparent for Clark's version at #18 over Shelton's at #27. The 4 February chart had Clark rise to #4 for the first of six weeks in the Top Five three of them at #2 and one at #1, while Shelton's version in its second week rose to #19 and in its third week to #10 which proved to be its peak as it subsequently descended the charts over the next five weeks for a total eight week chart span: Clark's version had almost double the chart span at fifteen weeks.[12][15] After "Sailor" Shelton had eleven subsequent single releases, the last in 1965.[17]

Other versions

"Sailor" was also recorded by the Andrews Sisters who were in London for an engagement at the Talk of the Town and made a one-off single for Decca Records (UK) comprising "Sailor" backed by "Goodnight and Sweet Dreaming"; the tracks featured Bernard Ebbinghouse conducting his orchestra were recorded 29 December 1960.[21]

Louise Morrissey[22] recorded "Sailor" for her 2008 album release The Gift.

French version: Petula Clark: "Marin"

Although absent from the UK charts through the late 1950s and the year 1960, Clark did during the same period enjoy a string of hit singles in France and "Sailor" - recorded with French lyric by Jean Broussolle as "Marin" - was to reach #2 on the French charts in May 1961. Clark's eighth French chart hit, "Marin" matched her previous #2 chart peak of "Java Pour Petula" in 1959: the follow-up to "Marin": "Roméo" would be the first of Clark's five French #1's.[23] "Marin" reached #10 on the charts for the French speaking sector of Belgium and the single also entered the Montreal charts (as "Sailor") in January 1961 peaking at #13 marking Clark's first appearance on an accredited North American chart almost four years before her breakout hit "Downtown".[24]

Preceded by
"Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
by Elvis Presley
UK number one single
(Petula Clark version)

February 23, 1961 (1 week)
Succeeded by
Walk Right Back" b/w "Ebony Eyes"
by The Everly Brothers


  1. ^ "German Top 20". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  2. ^ Schick deine Frau nicht nach Italien at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ That Old Time Rock & Roll by Richard Aquila. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  4. ^ Billboard vol 73 #18 (3 April 1961) p.38
  5. ^ Billboard vol 73 #22 (5 June 1961) p.10
  6. ^ "Thory Bernhards - Biografi". Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  7. ^ "Sixties Hit Parade - Belgium". Retrieved 28 February 2009. 
  8. ^ Géraldine Olivier German wikipedia
  9. ^ "Norman Newell". The Independent (London). 7 December 2004. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "RPM/Petula Clark". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  12. ^ a b "Chartstats/Petula Clark". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  13. ^ "PClark/ChartsEuro". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  14. ^ "PClark/ChartsSAfrica". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  15. ^ a b "Chartstats/Anne Shelton". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  16. ^ "Chartstats/Harry Secombe". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c "RPM/Anne Shelton". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  18. ^ "Philips Discography". Retrieved 2 March 2009. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Nimmo, H. Arlo (2004). The Andrews Sisters: a biography and career record. Jefferson NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 338. ISBN 0-7864-1731-5. 
  22. ^ Louise Morrissey
  23. ^ "PClark/ChartsFrench". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  24. ^ "PClark/ChartsCdn". Retrieved 26 February 2009. 

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