This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Water is very problematic in this country (Australia, for those who came in late). The top half has far too much of it and the bottom half, where pretty much everyone lives, not nearly enough.
Someone should invent a really big jack to lift up the top bit so the water all flows down to where it's needed.
Of course, there have been plans to divert rivers and where that's occurred, disaster has happened so I'll just forget about that jack. Quite obviously, we're talking and singing about water today. I'll start with one of my favorite songs on the topic.
THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS were a very long lived group who had many songs over the years that made an impact on the charts and elsewhere.
One of the group's founding members was Leonard Slye who was their lead singer for some considerable time before he went off and made a (different) name for himself in films as Roy Rogers. The Sons often joined him in those flicks.
The song today doesn't feature Roy, he was long gone by this time. The lead singer is Bob Nolan and what a great job he does. There are many versions of the song Cool Water, but this is the original, written by Bob himself.
That's him in the centre of the photo.
WILLIAM BELL was one of the great soul singers from the sixties.
William wrote this song and recorded it first (not surprisingly). Many others have covered it but who needs them when we have William.
Fortunately, at least as I write this, William is still with us and performing. You Don’t Miss Your Water.
PAUL KELLY was influenced by the great short story writer Raymond Carver and the song today is actually based on one of his stories, So Much Water, So Close to Home. It is also the name of the album from which the song is taken.
Paul is unusual in the ranks of male songwriters – he writes many songs from the female point of view. This is one of them, Everything's Turning to White.
I had two songs by the SOUL STIRRERS but I couldn't decide which to include. I played them for Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, to get her advice. She said, "Use both of them". She's pretty smart.
The first is Wade in the Water and it's a very old song that goes back to the Underground Railroad and gave instructions to slaves escaping and how to avoid capture.
Many have performed it over the years and there are many versions I could have included but I liked this one best of all. The Soul Stirrers is where Sam Cooke first made his name but that doesn't sound like Sam singing, although I could be wrong.
The other song by the group definitely has SAM COOKE singing lead.
It's another song about Jesus and water, called Jesus Gave Me Water.
There were two contenders for the song Pouring Water On a Drowning Man that stood out above the rest. The A.M. wanted Percy Sledge. I wanted JAMES CARR. I won because this is my column, and besides it's the better version (but not by much).
James was the great unknown soul singer. He didn't like touring or performing. He wasn't all that keen on recording either. He was bi-polar so it's understandable.
The music we do have of his demonstrates what an extraordinary talent he was. Here is his version of the song.
There are many versions of The Water is Wide out there and the pick of them is by KATHLEEN FERRIER. However, she calls the song O Waly, Waly.
Kath was probably the finest singer of the 20th century - unfortunately, breast cancer brought her career and her life to a premature end in 1953. She was a great interpreter of the works of Bach and Mahler, but they're not what we're about today.
HOWLIN' WOLF is an inspiration to all of us.
Functionally illiterate until his early forties, he went back to school to learn. Not just that, he went on to study accounting and business so that his band became really successful (it already was, but now it became more so).
He was able to pay his sidemen really well and offer them benefits not usually available in the world of touring blues musicians. Thus he attracted the best to perform with him.
He remained a faithful and loving husband for life. He was quiet and rather shy off-stage. His image is quite different from that, but image and reality often don't agree.
Wolf performs I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline).
Everyone reading will know THE WEAVERS.
They were a serious influence on folk and rock performers who followed in their wake. They perform Bring A Little Water Sylvie, a song written by Huddie Ledbetter.
It's a good week for soul singers, and here's another, WILSON PICKETT.
You Left the Water Running has been performed by quite a few soul singers (and others) and I had fun auditioning them. It surprised me that Wilson's version was better than Otis Redding's (and all the rest as well). Otis is usually my go to man in these situations.
Here is the Wicked Mr Pickett.
BOB WILLS is synonymous with western swing music, although there were others as well, of course.
Bob generally kept up a running "commentary" through his songs which irritates me somewhat, especially when Tommy Duncan was singing, which he did on most of the songs that are familiar to us. You can hear what I'm saying with Deep Water.