Witchi Tai To

Water Spirit feelin’ springin’ round my head

Makes me feel glad that I’m not dead.  – from Witchi Tai To by Jim Pepper

Did you ever hear a song on the radio that reminded you of a specific time in your life?

I woke the other day to Witchi Tai To playing on WXPN in Philadelphia and was sucked into a time machine that dropped me off in the 1970s. I had visions of Gene Shay who hosted a folk music show every Sunday night on the public radio station where I first heard Witchi Tai To. Shay was a founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival at the Old Poole Farm in Swanksville, PA and the man who came up with the name World Cafe, a nationally syndicated singer/songwriter show hosted by David Dye, a show I always considered successor to Gene Shay’s folk show.

But the Witchi Tai To I remembered was by the duo Brewer and Shipley, not the original version written by Native-American jazz saxophonist Jim Pepper. Witchi Tai To appeared on Pepper’s 1971 album Comin’ and Goin’. In my fascination and curiosity to learn more about him, I found out he was a pioneer of Native-American and American jazz fusion. You can read an excellent history of both the song and the musician at Just A Song.

The video below features a performer in traditional Native-American garb dancing to Jim Pepper’s Witchi Tai To.

Jim Pepper June 18, 1941 – February 10, 1992

The lyrics and spirit of Witchi Tai To reminded me of a morning last year when I woke on a ridge along the Appalachean Trail 1,000 feet above the Susquehanna River. A layer of fog hovered over the water at dawn that looked as if I could walk out onto the clouds. By the time I ate and broke camp the fog cleared and the river and farms below were as clear as could be. I leave you with this:

Water Spirit

arise with slit eyes

ear to earth

rock to water

whispers Witchi Tai To


jim brennan


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
This entry was posted in poetry, Poetry, Running and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Witchi Tai To

  1. Patrick says:

    Not often that i thank someone for putting a song in head! Thanks Jim!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim Brennan says:

      You are quite welcome, Patrick. Waking to Jim Pepper’s Witchi Tai To took me back to listening to Brewer and Shipley’s version in the 1970s. it’s been in my head ever since and I’m in no hurry to replace it.

      Liked by 1 person

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