Witchi Tai To
In 1969, my friends and I heard an exciting song on the radio, entitled Witchi Tai To. We couldn’t get enough of it. Performed by a band called Everything Is Everything, the song mesmerized us. The lead vocalist on the song was Jim Pepper, and it would be several years before I knew who he was. At the time that Witchi Tai To came out, it was simply this euphoric, remarkable piece that swept us away.
Jim Pepper was a Native American jazz saxophone player of Creek and Kaw ancestry. Pepper was greatly admired by his musical peers, and played with some of the legendary jazz greats of his time. He died way too young, at age 51. Of all the songs Pepper wrote or played, Witchi Tai To was the one that rose to greatest prominence.
Witchi Tai To comes from a Native American Church peyote song that Pepper learned from his Kaw grandfather. When my friends and I found out the peyote connection with Witchi Tai To, that only further amplified the mysterious spell of the song.
Witchi Tai To became one of my all-time favorite songs. Many artists, including Brewer and Shipley, Oregon, Harper’s Bizarre and The Supremes recorded Witchi Tai To. Those versions were good. But only Jim Pepper infused it with the heart and soul for which both the Everything Is Everything version and the version on Pepper’s Comin’ and Goin’ became known. On Comin’ and Goin’, Pepper’s saxophone elevates the song and gives it a beautiful power.
In October of 2012, I made one of my appearances on The Dr Oz Show. The producers wanted me to chant as part of a longevity program, and I chose Witchi Tai To to sing on air. I think the studio audience found the chant a bit strange. But after the show aired, requests poured in from all directions. What are the words to the song? Where can I get that tune? Somewhat to my surprise, Witchi Tai To struck a chord with The Dr Oz Show viewers. Who knew?
Realizing that there was an opportunity to provide people with a fresh new version of Witchi Tai To, I got together with the members of Blue Streak to record the song. Blue Streak is composed of guitarist John Sheldon, drummer John “Koko” Kokoszyna, bassist James Chetz Keegan, and saxophone player Joe Roderick. We recorded at Shoestring Studios in Western Massachusetts. Engineering and mixing were all done by Rusty Annis. I sat in on lead vocals. My wife Zoe Helene co-produced the song.
Over the course of several nights we sang and played, until we had a song we felt very good about. This version of Witchi Tai To is different from the others, but Joe Roderick’s searing saxophone is a very fine tribute to Jim Pepper. We offer this version of Witchi Tai To with great joy and pleasure. We hope this song will inspire you as it inspires us.
Click the link below to download and listen to the song.