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Land of a 1000 Dances – Wilson Pickett

Moods: 60s Dancing

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Published on September 01, 2011 with No Comments

“Land of a Thousand Dances” (or “Land of 1000 Dances”) is a song written and first recorded by Chris Kenner in 1962. The song is famous for its “na na na na na” hook, which was added by Cannibal & the Headhunters in their version of the song in 1965, whose version peaked at number thirty. The song’s best-known version was Wilson Pickett’s 1966 recording on his album, which became an R&B #1 and his biggest ever pop hit. Some releases of the song credit Antoine “Fats” Domino as a co-author of the song with Kenner. Domino had agreed to record the song in exchange for half of the song’s royalties.

The “na na na na na” hook was initiated by accident as Cannibal, lead singer of Cannibal and the Headhunters, had forgotten the actual lyrics to the song. The melody to this section was also created spontaneously (as it is not found in Chris Kenner’s original track).

In the original recording by Chris Kenner, 16 dances are specifically mentioned: the Pony, the Chicken, the Mashed Potato, the Alligator, the Watusi, the Twist, the Fly, the Jerk, the Tango, the Yo-Yo, the Sweet Pea, the Hand jive, the Slop, the Bop, the Fish, and the Popeye.

Although the lyrics mention many dances, they do not contain the song’s actual title. Kenner’s original recording included a brief, gospel-influenced, a capella introduction with the words: “Children, go where I send you / (How will you send me?) / I’m gon’ send you to that land / the land of a thousand dances.” However, this eighteen seconds was chopped off of the single release, obviously to facilitate radio airplay, and the phrase “Land of 1000 Dances” never received mention again, either in the Kenner version or any subsequent recording.

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