"Don't Pay the Ferryman" is a single by Chris de Burgh from his 1982 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.
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.
Christopher John Davison (born 15 October 1948), known professionally as Chris de Burgh, is a British-Irish singer-songwriter and instrumentalist. He started out as an art rock performer but subsequently started writing more pop-oriented material. He has had several top 40 hits in the UK and two in the US, but he is more popular in other countries, particularly Norway and Brazil. His 1986 love song "The Lady in Red" reached number one in several countries. De Burgh has sold over 45 million albums worldwide.
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