Jim Pepper, who wrote “Witchi Tai To” — his version takes a minute or so to get started:
The version I first fell in love with, by Jim Pepper’s band, Everything Is Everything, from 1969:
Brewer and Shipley’s version (their Web site explains they heard it on the radio and changed some of the lyrics that they couldn’t hear clearly enough to transcribe correctly):
Jim Pepper original
Songwriter and saxophonist Jim Pepper adapted the song “Witchi Tai To” from an old peyote chant that he learned from his Native American grandfather. “Witchi Tai To” was first recorded by Pepper’s band Everything Is Everything, after the group’s producers encouraged him to express his Native American heritage in his music. He brought in “Witchi Tai To” and they worked out the arrangement and English translation. “Witchi Tai To” became a leftfield hit, reaching #69 on the Billboard Charts in 1969, and to this day is the only hit to feature an authentic Native American chant in the history of the Billboard pop charts.
Brewer & Shipley cover
Brewer & Shipley learned the lyrics to “Witchi Tai To” by listening to Everything Is Everything’s recording on a radio station beaming out of Little Rock, Arkansas. It is ironic that they correctly interpreted the Native American lyrics but misinterpreted the adapted English lyrics. Michael Brewer notes, “While we were traveling all over the heartland late at night, that would be one of the only things we could get on the radio. ‘Witchi Tai To’ was getting a lot of FM airplay, and we just loved it, ’cause Tom and I have always been into Native American culture and music. I’m from Oklahoma, so I grew up with it all around me. We learned it off the radio, and sang phonetically. I think we got the Indian part right, but I don’t think we’re singing the English right to this day.” Brewer & Shipley’s version of the song got heavy FM airplay, and in some circles is the more well-known version. But don’t even try to tell that to Jazz fans of the late great Jim Pepper.
Everything Is Everything sings:Water spirit feelings Springin’ round my head Makes me feel glad That I’m not dead
Brewer & Shipley sing:What a spirit spring Is bringing round my head Makes me feel glad That I’m not dead