Thursday, May 30, 2013

Examples Of The Children's Cheer "Rock The Boat"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part series on the 1974 Disco song "Rock The Boat" and children's "Rock The Boat" cheers.

This post features video & text examples of "Rock The Boat" cheers and also provides some comments about the structure of those cheers.

Part I showcases the song "Rock The Boat" as recorded by The Hues Corporation (1973).

Click for Part I.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Rock The Boat" children's cheers demonstrate the influence that foot stomping cheers have had on the structure of cheers that are performed by children's cheerleading squads & children's athletic teams. These cheers are composed using a call & response structure that is quite different from the older "mainstream" "Go Team Go" type of cheerleader cheers.

(These videos are posted in chronological order with the oldest video posted first.)

Video #1: Aniya Rocks The Boat :-)

ti55, Uploaded on Mar 16, 2008
This is an example of the "She Slides" sub-category of "Rock The Boat" cheers.

A transcription of this video is given as Example #1 below.


RainbowBrite895, Uploaded on Jul 3, 2008

haha this is my softball team doing one of our cheers
Examples of cheers from this video's viewer comment thread are found below. Because those examples are very similar to the cheer that is chanted in that video, I didn't transcribe that video. This "Rock The Boat" cheer is from that cheer's "Bang Bang Choo Choo Train" sub-category. It appears from my review of these cheers that examples include either the "She slides" or "the Bang Bang" verses, however there may be examples of this cheer that include both of these verses.

Video #3: Bulldogs Rock the Boat (cheer)

mlisa73, Uploaded on Dec 23, 2011

The girls cheering.
This cheer is from the "bang bang choo choo train" category of
"Rock The Boat" cheers. A sub-category of that cheer includes the line "bang bang and pull that spirt". Examples of these cheers are found below.

Keira & aliyah rock the boat cheer

shawn cavanagh, Published Sep 27, 2012
This is an example of the "She Slides" sub-category of "Rock The Boat" cheers.

(These examples are from the featured videos presented above or their viewer comment threads. They aren't presented in any particular order.)

Example #1: ROCK THE BOAT
Rock the boat. Don't tip it over.
Rock the boat. Don't tip it over.
Hey, Aniya. "Hey what?"
Hey, Aniya. "Hey what?"
Can you rock the boat? "No way."
Can you rock the boat?! "Ok."
She slides. She slides. She do The Butterfly.
She dips. She dips. She shakes her little hips!
-ti55, Mar 16, 2008,
This is my transcription of the video given above as "Video #1". This cheer is composed using the traditional foot stomping cheer structure. The "rock the boat/don't tip it over" line is a clear indication that this cheer was heavily influenced by The Hues Corporations' 1974 record "Rock The Boat".

Notice that the group (or an individual) commands (or asks) one person to do something, and that person's first response is to refuse. However, when the group (or an individual) commands (or asks) that same person to do the same thing a second time, that person complies. This pattern marks this cheer as an example of what I refer to as a "command/refusal"* type of [dance style] foot stomping cheer, although the actual pattern is "command, refusal, command, compliance".

*I previously referred to this sub-category of dance style cheers as "command compliance". I changed that term because "command/refusal" highlights the soloist's initial act of refusal.

[Added 11/11/2016]
It’s possible that this command/refusal portion of this pattern (the soloist initially refusing to perform when she is first commanded to do) so may be evidence that African American culture devalues people who are show-offs. Therefore, the person has to be persuaded to perform. But (in addition to that possibility) I think that command/compliance patterns in children’s foot stomping show highlight the value that is placed on “being strong”, “being your own person”, and not “This refusal to jump hoops just because someone tells you to”. Because she Initially refuses to “show me how you rock” or “show me how you get down” (to quote command lines from two of this sub-set of foot stomping cheers), the soloist conveys that “nobody can tell me what to do”. I’ll do what I want when I want to”. Read more of my comments about this subject under Example #4 below.

Also, it should be noted that in command/refusal cheers, the soloist sometimes refuses to do what is commanded or asked of her without giving a reason. In other command/compliant cheers the soloist gives an excuse. For example, in a cheer entitled "You Ain't Goin Nowhere" that I collected in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2002, and (the same cheer) in 2008, the soloist says she's too shy, before going ahead and doing what is asked of her the second time that she is asked.

It occurs to me that this non-compliant attitude may also be shown in the belligerent responses to the hawk in the 1922 rhyme “Chicka Ma Chicka Ma Craney Crow” and to the mother/teacher in the United States/Caribbean rhymes that I call “Children, Children”.
[End of addition]

"The Butterfly" is a dance of Jamaican origin that was picked up & integrated into American R&B/Hip Hop dance repertoire of the 1990s. A number of mainstream cheers include a referent to doing "The Butterfly". There are also some references to "The Butterfly" dance in certain foot stomping cheers.

Example #2: ROCK THE BOAT
I learned

"Hey ____!"
"Hey what?"
"Hey ____!"
"Hey what?"
"Can you rock the boat?"
"I might"
"Can you rock the boat?"
"Rock the boat, Don't tip it over,
Rock the boat, Don't tip it over"
-TheKaitybugs,, 2012

Example #3: ROCK THE BOAT
Rock the boat and don’t tip it over
Rock the boat and don’t tip it over
My name is ___
(rock the boat)
I cheer for bulldogs
(rock the boat)
And if I didn’t*
(rock the boat)
it goes a little something like this
bang bang get it get it
And pull that spirit.

[continue with the next girl who says the same words except her name]
-mlisa73, Uploaded on Dec 23, 2011,
This is my transcription of the cheer given in Video #3.
* "And if I didn't" is usually given as “and when I do). Those words make more sense in the context of this cheer.

Example #4: ROCK THE BOAT
this is how we do it at my school:

rock the boat dont tip it over
rock the boat dont tip it over
my name is __
im feelin fine!
u mess with me
ill blow ur mind
so bang bang choo choo train
u look at me and i do my thang
no recces pieces no butter cup
i kno karate i kno kung fu
u mess with ill mes with u!

i kno its tottaly off to wat everyone else is sayin but thats wat we sing on the bus all the time.
-slimeshady100,, 2010

Example #4: ROCK THE BOAT
[Editor's note: I assigned numbers for the lines to provide an text analysis of this example. The group's lines are indicated by "G" in brackets. The soloist's lines are indicated by "S" in brackets. The entire group's lines are indicated by G&S in brackets.

we do it like this for cheerleading

1. rock the boat dont tip it over [G&S]
2. rock the boat dont tip it over [G&S]
3. hey_____, [G]
4. hey what? [S]
5. hey_____, [G]
6. hey what? [S]
7. can u rock the boat? [G] way [S]
9. can u rock the boat? [G]
10. Ok [S]
11. she slides she slides *
12. she gets on a horse and rides,
13. she dips she dips,
14. she shakes her little hips
15. she wants you and you
16. to rock the boat too
-Brooke Esposito,, 2011

*It seems that this line until the end of the cheer might be chanted only by the Group but those lines might also be chanted by the Group plus the soloist.

The earliest dated examples that I've collected for "Rock The Boat" cheers are from the 1980s. One significant difference between traditional & some mainstream "Rock The Boat" cheers is whether the group commands (or demands that the soloist) do something or whether the group asks the soloist to do something. If that action is demanded of the soloist or asked of her creates a different tone for those cheers and also conveys an entirely different cultural message. It seems to me that these are crucial differences.

In traditional examples of these cheers, the fact that the girl initially refuses to do what is demanded of her may demonstrate that a value is placed on being independent and not (immediately) acceding to orders (or expectations?) that others have for you. In contrast, in mainstream examples of these cheers, the soloist's refusal to do what is asked of her comes across as belligerent.

It's possible that "Can you rock the boat" could be interpreted as "Are you able to rock the boat?" However, in the context of that cheer, the soloist's surly answer of "No way" doesn't mean "There's no way that I'm able to do that action that you ask me can I do." Instead, "No way" means that "There's no circumstances which would make me [no reason why] I would do what you ask. The difference between that and the traditional meaning may be subtle, but I think that a difference does exist.

That said, I'm not certain that the girls who chanted/chant the traditional "demanding" version of this cheer and other "command/compliance" cheers consciously recognize the message that the cheer conveys with those "command" or demand and refusal to comply lines.

This concludes Part II of this series.

My thanks to all those who are featured in these videos and all those whose cheer examples are presented in this post.

Thank you to for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. I know another example of that song. I sung it at my camp before. It is similar to example 2. It goes like this:
    Hey ____!
    Hey What?
    Hey ____!
    Hey what?
    Can you rock the boat?
    I might.
    Can you rock the boat?
    I slide, I glide, I get on the monkey ride and I want you and you, to rock the boat too.
    Rock the boat, don't tip it over.
    Rock the boat, don't tip it over.

    1. Thanks for sharing that example, Katie.

      For the folkloric record, it would be great to know Where you learned it (city/state) and when (decade).

      And did and the others campers do any motions when you sang it?