Musical coincidences # 93

March 10, 2011

Today’s coincidence may be a tad small, but it’s stuck in my brain and I feel the need to tell you about it.

This coincidence came about because of a recent visit to Sal Nunziato’s Burning Wood blog (Hi, Sal!). Sal’s a huge fan of Roy Wood and was terribly excited when he heard about a previously unreleased track from 1976. Unfortunately, as soon as he heard it, Sal was left thoroughly unexcited. (I guess it might be more accurate to say that Sal was dismayed with what he heard.)

I had a listen to the track, and didn’t think anything of it while it was playing (it just is what it is), but there was a melody tucked in there that fired up a few neurons in my noggin.

Here’s the melody:

Roy Wood & Wizzard – “French Perfume” (1976) (excerpt)

Link

It hit me in a flash that those notes are the same notes that make up the opening melody in “Swanee River”*. It’s the bit that goes “Way down upon the Swan…” but without the “…ee River” high melody leap (it’s called an octave jump) at the end of the phrase.

I couldn’t find a decent version of “Swanee River” that was at a suitable tempo (i.e., slow) or in the right key (D major), so I recorded a piano doing the melody. That way, you can hear it isolated and say to yourself “Oh, yeah – that is the start of ‘Swanee River’…”:

Old Folks At Home (Swanee River)” (excerpt)

Link

Now if you’d care to go back to the Roy Wood excerpt you’ll hopefully hear the similarity.

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t believe something unless they see it in black-and-white, this is a) what Roy sings and b) the opening melody of “Swanee River” (I’ve greyed out the notes that Roy doesn’t sing):

Here’s the full version of Roy’s song. The “Swanee River” bit occurs at 0:43 (or 0:43.453 if you want to be exact):

Roy Wood & Wizzard – “French Perfume” (1976)

Link

And here’s the full phrase of “Swanee River”‘s opening line (i.e., “Way down upon the Swanee River”) – all two bars of it:

Old Folks At Home (Swanee River)” (excerpt)

Link

(*I had no idea that the song’s not called “Swanee River” at all, nor has it ever been – it’s actually “Old Folks At Home“.)

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