My Old Kentucky Homesite

Earworm Saturday #7

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/07/2010

When my friend visited me from New York, one of the things she really wanted to do was to go to Shaker Village. Having been there once, I had no desire to hear the history of the silly religious sect again. The only thing I remember about them is that they were hot for celibacy, so they didn’t tend to breed much. Soon — big surprise! — they went extinct. Who says Darwin is inapplicable to Christianity?

In any case, on the morning of the day my we’d planned to head to Pleasant Hill (how pleasant could it be without sex?), we heard that the temperature was going to be 91 degrees. Even my friend had no interest in braving the sweltering heat just to watch people make chairs.

So we stayed home, and, to mollify her, I found a decent rendition of that ubiquitous Shaker tune. (Note: The tune is ubiquitous; the Shakers, as previously noted, not so much.) By the way, if you’re wondering what to get me for my next birthday, the jewel in the video is a simple gift I’d enjoy.

If you know me, you can probably guess the rest. I wound up with an earworm. And so did my friend. We spent a lot of the rest of the day asking one another to stop whistling.

The weirdest thing about “Simple Gifts,” however, is that it’s hardly ever performed simply. This sweet potato is trying to make her interpretation look easy, but she’s not fooling anyone, is she?

Here are a couple of Presbyterians, clearly working hard. Once or twice they get so close to one another that it’s a good question whether they’ll be able to remain celibate for long.

But nobody makes the song seem more difficult than this guy. How does he do that? [Note: Here’s an Addendum for the Curious.]

Some music directors are entirely wrong-headed. Is there anything simple about this version?

Occasionally, even a rendition that has aural simplicity still manages to look impossible. How did these siblings get their pianos on the sand?

A new set of lyrics was written in 1963 by Sydney Carter, who managed to combine Christ and dancing. Screw all those fundies who think that doing the jig is a sin. (In case you’re in too much of a religious rapture to notice, I should warn you that the input file has no video stream.)

Given Carter’s lyrics, you should have guessed that I’d include this unsimple performance, with its many encores. What says “simple” more than a fireworks display? In fact, the only thing remotely simple about this video, is the fact that the guy forgot to put on his shirt.

Are you bored of the dance yet?

If there is an afterlife, the ghosts of 19th-century Shakers are definitely shaking at their no longer recognizable song.

The moral of this post is: Keep it simple, stupid!


22 Responses to “Earworm Saturday #7”

  1. Nothing against Jewel, but I find the “whisper singing” technique a cheap means of feigning sincerity.

    I was both amused and bemused at the chick playing the wooden taco. It was nice. Weird, but nice.

    The guy wouldn’t shut up. The majority of his time was spent babbling about smurfs. Seriously, the guy didn’t sing until the 1:10 mark. But he was amazing. I have never before seen anything like it. From what I understand, he was humming AND whistling from his anus, while keeping perfect time. Simply amazing.

    As far as the WVU band goes, “Simple Gifts” is about as close to a fight song as “Loving You.”

    I would title the one without the visual “Baroque Gifts.”

    The Lord of the Dance and the Bored of the Dance seem rather pleased with themselves. I found it strange that the “rapping” troupe actually seemed whiter by rapping than they would have by singing.

  2. Des:
    Excellent reviews. I agree with you about Jewel and her “whisper singing.” Would it be better if she could hum simultaneously?

    Your comment about the rappers cracked me up. I was thinking exactly the same thing. White kids rapping is very like 1920s Germans playing jazz. They were able to do it, but not without killing the thing they “loved.” Kinda like how vampires and/or Christians get converts.

  3. What about Mormon vampires? Apparently they don’t kill their victims until they have led them on for at least two and a half books.

  4. Des:
    I’m not even going to ask how you happened to stumble across that site. Perhaps you’d Googled: “It’s a gift to be simple-minded.”

  5. Like it matters what comes out of Jewel’s mouth. Come on!

    The sparkly cliffs notes version of Twilight was quite nice. Thanks for that.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard this Simple Gifts song before. I can’t believe so many people know it, let alone can perform any part of it with their anus. I guess I need to get out more.

  6. Here’s my contribution. Nothing says simple like a brass band on Broadway!

  7. Going:
    First, the girls at the beginning seemed unusually large breasted for professional dancers. Second, I love it when religious tunes are sung with such … ahem … flamboyance.

  8. Philly:
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard this Simple Gifts song before.

    What? I can easily believe that you’re not familiar with Copland’s Appalachian Spring, and that you didn’t watch the Obama inauguration. But are you saying that you’ve never played the Colecovision Smurf game?

    Anyway, now that you’ve heard the melody, you can expect to find yourself humming it over and over.

    What were those things the dancers were swinging? If they wanted to make it authentically Shaker, they should have been carrying chairs instead of plastic dildos.

    The girls at the beginning seemed unusually large breasted for professional dancers.

    And your problem with that is …?

  9. srsny said

    I’ve been having a lot of fun trying to play some of these simltaneously. Try Jewel with the ocarina girl or the white rapper kids with the throat singer guy. By the way, I am now obsessed with trying to sing overtones. There are a lot of instructions on you tube, but each of them tells you to do something else. Listen to this guy- Tis a gift to sing overtones.

  10. Srsny:
    I like mixing the WVU marchers and Michael Flatley: Lord of the Bands. I’m also fond of overdubbing the smurfs with the piano players: The Blue Browns.

    I am now obsessed with trying to sing overtones.
    I’m eagerly waiting for you to master that technique. I’m sure your favorite Rosemary Clooney songs will sound terrific with a drone.

  11. srsny said

    It’s also fun to turn down Flatley’s music and watch him dance while the guy sings “Bored of the Dance.”

  12. I think you’ve all figured out what should be in Youtube v2, an editor. I can see it now, bizarre mixes of pre-existing clips.

    Btw, if anyone REALLY wants to capture youtube stuff, two simple solutions are Camtasia and SnapzPro. They cost money, but they’ll capture anything that happens onscreen. SnapzPro is only for Mac, and it’s what I use to make videos for my classes (which sadly lack any singing or dancing, in case you were curious).

  13. Srsny:
    Is there a way to turn down Jewel’s music and just watch her dance?

    It’s what I use to make videos for my classes (which sadly lack any singing or dancing, in case you were curious).
    If you were really a conscientious educator, you’d make sure that your classes sang and danced. Suggested title for your course: “Sing and Dance Your Way to Animation Mastery.”

  14. Oaktown Girl said

    Absolutely nothing to do with the Earworm Saturday topic, but I thought this would really brighten up everybody’s Sunday, so here it is! (Apologies if you’ve already covered that gem).

  15. the chaplain said

    Another way to capture YouTube or any other online video is to download it with RealPlayer. I think I’ve got version 11. It also comes with a program that will convert the video to different formats or rip just the audio. And it’s FREE.

    Since Obama’s inauguration has already been mentioned, I’ll contribute a link.

  16. Oaky:
    How come there’s no song with that? Everybody knows that this is what happens to kids if they associate with atheists. They even become capable of corrupting adults!

    I avoided that link because it nauseates me. Do you think that was the song Obama was listening to when he called himself a “Committed Chrisitan”? Or maybe it was on his iPod when he argued in favor of the National Day of Prayer. Perhaps it was his earworm when he came up with the answer to the BP oil gusher: perform “The Blessing of the Fleet.” Simple, indeed. He’s as complexly Machiavellian in manipulating people through their ignorance as Rick Warren and Pat Robertson are.

  17. the chaplain said

    He’s as complexly Machiavellian in manipulating people through their ignorance as Rick Warren and Pat Robertson are.

    Nah, he manipulates people more effectively than those two amateurs combined.

  18. Chappy:
    Yep, you’re right. You could throw in Pope Benny with those other two, and Obama would probably still win.

  19. ildi said

    Speaking of Jewel, Undercover Karaoke with Jewel

    They’re really pulling for Karen; like Karen was going to make it out of frozen foods…

  20. Ildi:
    I loved the guy who said “I don’t want to tell Jewel, but the girl that was singing her songs may have actually been slightly better.”

  21. srsny said

    Did you notice the excellent t-shirt that the last guy was wearing?

  22. Srsny:
    Hey, thanks for pointing that out. I missed it completely.
    What I particularly loved about the shirt was the correct use of “whom.”

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