Fun Facts and Trivia

Wimoweh: The story behind the song " The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

 

There have been many versions of this song from Pete Seeger’s version in 1952 (titled “Wimoweh”) to the Tokens’ No. 1 single in 1961 to the hugely popular Disney film and Broadway musical The Lion King.  But its origin dates back to 1939 to man named Solomon Linda and a song called Mbube. 

To learn more about the story

https://performingsongwriter.com/lion-sleeps-tonight/

We performed this song at the end of year concert in 2019. 

"Wim-o-weh o-wim-o-weh o-wim-o-weh o-wim-o-weh
o-wim-o-weh o-wim-o-weh o-wim-weh...

 

In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle the quiet jungle
The lion sleeps tonight"

Love

"Love shine a light, in every corner of my heart
Let the love light carry, let the love light carry
Light up the magic in every little part
Let our love shine a light, in every corner of our hearts"

Love Shine a Light by Katrina and the Waves

In 2021, one of our choir members downloaded a list of past winners and other favorites from the contest so we could select one to sing together. We chose Love Shine a Light by Katrina and the Waves, which was the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997, representing the UK. We performed this at our summer concert in July 2021.

Did you know?

The Eurovision Song Contest (often known as Eurovision) is the longest-running annual international televised music competition and one of the world's longest-running television programs. It has been held annually (apart from 2020) since 1956! 

It is an international song competition organized by the European Broadcasting Union. Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio, with competing countries then casting votes for the other countries' songs to determine a winner. In recent years,  a "popular vote" was added in addition to the to the professional jury of each country. People can vote for their favorite songs, but one cannot vote for the song representing ones own country. The points for each song are then counted and the song with the most points wins. The winning country gets to host next year's contest.

As of 2021, 52 countries have participated at least once, including some non-European countries such as Australia. The event has  become so big that to allow all countries to participate there are 2 semi-finals in the days prior to the final. The finals are watched by more than 300 million people and is considered the most popular non-sport event in the world.

 

Bobby Wittes’ Youth in Music, Dec. 8, 2021

As per the suggestion of Teesta Soman of the Toronto Physicians’ Choir, I have written a brief essay to list what was the most important music to me as I was growing up, stopping (somewhat arbitrarily) at age 18. I have tried to imagine which could be sung by a choir or with different harmonies, but it is not obvious to me if any of them could! I have chosen only songs that appear on YouTube. I lived in Montréal from my birth in 1951 until I moved with my family in 1964 at age 13 to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

When I was very young, my parents were constantly playing music by the Weavers or by Pete Seeger after he left the Weavers. In fact, they brought me to the previously-existing Her Majesty’s Theatre in Montreal (demolished in 1963) to see one or the other, I forget which. For Pete Seeger, I choose “The Bells Of Rhymney”  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vK_eVaLeiQ0). From the Weavers, I choose “Irene, good night” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks2639QpFw0). There existed an analogous folk group in Canada called The Travellers; I choose “This land is your land”  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trNCBMKvHcs). We had a boxed set called “Children of Paris” which I cannot find on the Internet, but one of their songs was “Sur le pont d’Avignon,” here sung by Maurice Chevalier! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bisne-xcgeo).

 

My parents were avid opera fans, so much so that on a trip to New York City, “La Bohème” was sold out, but they bought standing-room tickets and held my sister and me on their shoulders! I love every phrase of the opera, which I have by now seen live about 6 times; Here is “Musetta’s Waltz” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6spsEkftJ7M), and here is the love duet called “ O soave fanciulla” between Rodolfo and Mimi at the end of the First Act  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRGRxtVdvWI). I must also mention “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot. Nobody could sing this like Luciano Pavarotti, but here is a quirky recording where he sang it in a 1982 movie called “Yes, Giorgio” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_hLh4qCqpg).

 

My parents had been in New York City in 1961 and were in attendance during the taping of “Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall”. They used to listen to that 2-LP recording all the time. Her signature song, of course, was “Somewhere over the Rainbow, and here is her version from that performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfq12giLJp4. Another great was “Stormy Weather” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHFdK47VyzU), For those not in the know, Rufus Wainwright – the son of Kate McGarrigle -- recreated that entire performance note-for- note; here he is singing “When you’re smiling”  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1rAbDEHIzc.).

 

So that brings us to the wonderful Kate and Anna McGarrigle, whom I saw perform a few times (after age 18) at the Outremont Theatre on Bernard Avenue in Montréal. Here they are with Linda Ronstadt (!) singing “Heart like a wheel” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzpz_q7mg0M) , and here they sing “Hard times come again no more” with Mary Black and EmmyLou Harris (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YrfLnlrquo). Finally, in this thread, here are Mary Black and EmmyLou Harris singing “By the time it gets dark” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z9w1KOz2mY) and  “The loving time” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85IwyeCBA0M).

 

The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show when I was 12 in Feb., 1964. I, like almost every other boy, often wore a mop-top wig that mimicked the hairstyle of the Beatles. What did they sing that night? “She was just 17” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qXyw1JiW7I) and “She loves you” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S302kF8MJ-I). This was the era when I fell in love with a girl for the first time, slow-dancing to “House of the rising sun” by Eric Burdon and the Animals (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-43lLKaqBQ).

 

At age 13, for my Bar-Mitzvah in June, 1964, I was given a round-trip train ticket from Montréal to New York City, where I stayed with 2 different relatives. I attended the Johnny Carson show, where I saw Trini Lopez singing “If I had a hammer” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp1z8EzZ5Hs). I attended my first Broadway play, “Oliver,” where the great Georgia Brown played the female lead named Nancy, singing her great solo, “As long as he needs me” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hG0FqwOGfNk). A good song for our choir from “Oliver” might be “Who will buy” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJcH1bj53aE).

 

We moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan – an hour west of Detroit – in Sept., 1964, so of course, Motown quickly came to dominate my musical tastes. A few of my favourites were the following: “Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k0GDQrK2jo) and later by Linda Ronstadt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fceTi-LklI); “Ooh baby, baby” by Smokey and the Miracles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwwsT2Hh1AQ) and later also accompanied by Linda Ronstadt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4MF-GoQd6k); “Jimmy Mack,” again by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi8EdYM0t3k) and later by Laura Nyro (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EK-XUJu46UQ); “What’s goin’ on” by Marvin Gaye (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPkM8F0sjSw) and “Ain’t no mountain” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IC5PL0XImjw). Then there were the two incomparable ladies: Aretha Frankin singing “Respect” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF-gQP91iIE) and Nina Simone playing the piano and singing “I don’t want him” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pch_ny7yS14).

 

When I was 17, I spent the summer of 1968 as a VISTA summer volunteer in Delbarton, Mingo County, West Virginia, on the border of Kentucky. I lived with a coal-mining family in a house with neither electricity nor water. Songs from there? Merle Travis, “16 tons” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pfVvqLM_e4); Dolly Parton with Linda Ronstadt and EmmyLou Harris, “Farther along” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kunGUM83m8); and Hedy West, “Shady Grove” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqxgEjOtjjQ) ) and “Little Sadie” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0kF_KDrkaM). Malvina Reynolds wrote the song

that Pete Seeger recorded called “Mrs. Clara Sullivan’s letter” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNmArOgUYPo), which I sang everywhere (with my 12- string guitar) all summer; its lyrics really rang a bell down there.

 

I was really into folk music in the 1960's, so there are far too many songs to list. A few of my favourites were the following: Joan Baez, “Gracias a la Vida,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSl2sl-MoJI); Peter, Paul, and Mary, “500 miles.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stUYVSx8BTk); Judy Collins, “Tomorrow is a long time” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8lV5LHwIuk); James Taylor, “Something in the way she moves” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0FJUVo-BaM); Carole King, “Natural woman” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMArGNtC6zQ); Laura Nyro, “Eli’s comin” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX5AanHQS1g);   Joni Mitchell. “Big yellow taxi” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ratQlft_G5c); Bob Dylan, “Knockin’ on heaven’s door” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCV84dTevX0); The Band, “The weight” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-w9OclUnns); and my all-time favourite Gordon Lightfoot: “Song for a winter’s night” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfyDs6uXww0) and “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjoU1Qkeizs).

 

So I have another 52 years of music to recount (70 - 18), but choir starts in an hour.

Perhaps I’ll repeat this exercise another time, as it really is a lot of fun!

Dr. Robert Wittes is a Family Physician who spent the last 15 years in practice in Thornhill and has recently retired. He had spent much of his earlier career in his other specialty of Public Health and Tropical Medical medicine working on mass chemotherapy of schistosomiasis, and prevention and treatment of malaria. He started playing both guitar and piano at age 10 and is the proud owner of a Heintzman concert grand piano; his late mother had played concerts on this piano, and his two daughters learned to play on it. He joined the Toronto Physicians’ Choir in 2020 and sings bass