Writings about Music

Coincidences Abounding

Charlie Parker had a Native American mother, and credited Cherokee by Ray Noble, about a Native American maiden, with inspiring his artistic breakthrough. Noble's song shares the first seven notes of the earlier The Song Is Ended by Irving Berlin.

When women sing Cherokee they commonly substitute "warrior" for the original "maiden," an unfortunate militaristic distortion of the lyrics. While there doesn't appear to be an easy substitution, even "sole mate" would be an improvement upon that practice! Strange how difficult it was finding a man or woman singing Cherokee with the original text, finally discovering this version by artists I've never heard of before, but perhaps they were the ones who originally hipped Bird to the song, he being extremely sensitive to both lyrics and music, and how they conjoin synergistically forming emotional resonance. The soaring, unconventional poetic content of Cherokee is often overlooked.

Regretfully, the version mentioned above was removed from YouTube, so here are later versions of Cherokee using "maiden" by Vic Damone, and "warrior" by Donna Hightower. Hopefully the early version of Cherokee mentioned above will become available again. I regret not actually writing down the names of the artists as they already appeared on the now missing video. Nonetheless, there does exist a vocal recording of Cherokee using "maiden" that Charlie Parker may have heard prior to recording his famous instrumental intepretations, including those with Jay McShann, and Ko Ko, based on Cherokee.


- Michael Robinson, September 2020, Los Angeles


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Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, pianist and musicologist. His 199 albums include 152 albums for meruvina and 47 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.