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Chris De Burgh - Don't Pay The Ferryman (1982)

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  • 80's Score 80's score: 1.35
  • Find this song on: Music Stack

"Don't Pay the Ferryman" is a song by Irish artist Chris de Burgh. It was released in September 1982 as the lead single from ...

"Don't Pay the Ferryman" is a song by Irish artist Chris de Burgh. It was released in September 1982 as the lead single from his album The Getaway.

AllMusic critic Sharon Mawer states the song has become "a standard art rock classic" and one of de Burgh's most frequently played songs on radio, despite not reaching the Top 40 on its original UK release.

Background

The song tells the story of a man who boards a ferryboat and sets off. A storm approaches and the ferryman demands payment. The song's narrator warns the passenger not to pay the ferryman until the boat arrives at its destination on the other side.

The repetitive lyrics are believed to have a connection with mythology. The song describes the ferryman as "the hooded old man at the rudder", and seems to connect to the classic image of the Grim Reaper, a hooded being (usually a skeleton) who leads lost souls to "the other side", also a lyric in the song. The ferryman demanding his payment is also similar to the Greek ferryman of the dead, Charon. He demanded an obolus (coin) to ferry dead souls across the River Styx. Those who did not pay were doomed to remain as ghosts, remaining on the plane of the mare, the restless dead.

Music video

The music video for "Don't Pay the Ferryman" was directed by Maurice Phillips.

Chart positions

It became Chris de Burgh's first UK hit single almost eight years into his recording career when it entered the chart on 23 October 1982 and peaked at number 48, staying on the chart for five weeks. In 1983, the single reached number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. It was a major hit on the Australian Kent Music Report chart, where it reached the Top 5 and spent 25 weeks in the Top 100.

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