Ship of Fools

Ship of Fools may make you think of a Grateful Dead song or a song from The Doors, but the history behind this 3-word phrase is really quite amazing. It first appears in 1494 as a book, Das Narrenschiff, written by Sebastian Brant. Around the same time period painter Hieronymus Bosch depicted the concept on canvas (this image). Other books using the title came up in 1962, 2002 and 2009.  A movie based on the 1962 book came out in 1965.  The infamous Ted Kaczynski (aka The Unabomber) wrote a play called Ship of Fools. Within our music archives at KZSC we have a number of the artists who have used Ship of Fools as a song title, each with unique lyrics including versions done by John Cale, World Party & Erasure. The only covers I’ve found so far are both Elvis Costello and The Persuasions doing renditions the Dead’s Ship of Fools. If you are curious about who else has used this storied phrase, get into your little dinghy & start your outboard search engines…but be careful sailor, the web is a big ocean where many have lost their way.