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GUEST,BigDaddy Lyr Req: Water Spirits / Witchi Tai To (Jim Pepper (36) RE: Lyr Req: Water Spirits / Witchi Tai To (Jim Pepper 14 Jun 13

This from Tom Grant
(Witchi Tai-to (Part I)
Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:38 pm on November 22, 2010
This is the most popular song I never wrote. It was written by the late Jim Pepper. Jim was a Native American who was born in Oklahoma but grew up in Portland, attending Madison and Parkrose high schools. He played the saxophone.   While in high school, he and my brother Mike ( a piano player) met and started a friendship based on their mutual interest in jazz music.
They went their separate ways after high school. My brother eventually burned out on music and was one of the founding members of the Hare Krishna movement. Pepper ended up in New York in a jazz fusion band called "Everything is Everything."   It was that band that had the original hit recording of Witchi Tai-to in around 1967. It made it to #69 in Billboard. I recorded it in New York with Pepper in about 1970 for a record called "Pepper's Pow-Wow." It featured Jim's dad Gilbert, Larry Coryell on guitar, Billy Cobham (was at the sessions, but I'm not sure if it was him on the WTT track or the other drummer at these sessions named Spider Rice). You can go onto YouTube and hear the original chant version on the "Pepper's Pow Wow" album, along with version II of the song.
I started playing with Jim in the early 70's at a place in NE Portland called Ray's Helm. The song Witchi Tai-to was a huge hit with the Pepper fans.   So we would sometimes end up playing it several times a night. People would be writhing, all tranced-out on the dance floor.   Sometimes highly altered Helm patrons would come up out of the audience to get on stage and sing it with us. People would fall into the front row tables, get back up and on stage to continue the chant.
Witchi Tai-to became a kind of cult classic. Kids sang it around campfires. It was recorded by other prominent artists: Brewer and Shipley, Jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek, the group Oregon, many others including me. And Pepper recorded it several times more himself over the years.
Many of my fans think I wrote the song. Wrong. I loved the song and I think always played it in a way that reflected that. I never get tired of it. It has a truly transcendent quality. It was based on a ritual peyote chant that Pepper learned from his family. Although Jim (nor his parents who taught him the chant) never knew what the words meant, the song weaves a kind of spell based on it's pure simplicity.   But there's one wrinkle in that simplicity: the whole song is based on a 6 bar chord progression. This is unusual since most pop…(and jazz tunes for that matter), use 8 bar progressions.   So when the first verse of the native lyrics finish, the singer is in the midst of the chord progression. So get out your guitars, pianos, mouth organs etc. and here's how it works.   This is my best attempt at a phonetic treatment of the native (Comanche) lyrics.
Dmaj                                       Dmaj/C                                  Bmin                Gmaj
Witchi tai tai   gimerah   wo-rah-nee-ko wo-rah-nee-ko   hey ney hey ney no ah
Emin                                       A7                                          Dmaj                   Dmaj/C
Witchi tai tai   gimerah   wo-rah-nee-ko wo-rah-nee-ko   hey ney hey ney no ah
Bm                                           Gmaj
Water spirit feelin' springin' round my head
Em                                    A7
Makes me feel glad that I'm not dead… Witchi
Dmaj                         Dmaj/C                                       Bmin               Gmaj
Tai tai   gimerah   wo-rah-nee-ko wo-rah-nee-ko   hey ney hey ney no ah Witchi
Emin                         A7                                              Dmaj                   Dmaj/C
tai tai   gimerah   wo-rah-nee-ko wo-rah-nee-ko   hey ney hey ney no ah
Every chord change starts a new bar (measure). Notice that the English verse starts at the 3rd bar of the chord progression but ends at the end of the progression, thereby kind of righting the ship. For a moment anyway. So, this may be too "inside baseball" for many of you, but at least you get a look at the Comanche lyrics the way Jim intended them. If you listen to the Brewer and Shipley version of the song, they don't get the Native OR the English lyrics right.

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