Friday, July 4, 2003

100 years ago: “Hiawatha” hit #1

Hiawatha (His Song to Minnehaha)

Harry MacDonough

Writer(s): Neal Moret (music), James O’Dea (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 1, 1903

Peak: 14 US, 13 GA, 16 SM (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Originally subtitled “A Summer Idyll,” “Hiawatha” was written by Charles N. Daniels under the pseudonym of Neil Moret SM and published in 1901. It was an instrumental tribute to Hiawatha, Kansas. SM Moret had lived in Kansas City and dated a girl from Hiawatha. TY2 The melody came to him one day when he was headed to visit her. TY2

John Philip Sousa introduced the song, adding it to his band’s repertoire. TY2 James O’Dea wrote lyrics for it a few years later which changed the song into one about a man who falls for an Indian princess. The subtitle changed to “His Song to Minnehaha,” a reference to a fictional character in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Song of Hiawatha.” SM

The song started a trend of Indian songs, DJ including Fred Hager’s “Laughing Water,” Kerry Mills’ “Red Wing,” Egbert Van Alstyne’s “Navajo” and “Seminole,” and Percy Wenrich’s “Silver Bell.” TY2 Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan recorded a parody version called “Parody on Hiawatha.” TY

The first chart version of the song was by the Columbia Orchestra in April 1903, reaching #3. Harry MacDonough followed with the most popular version of the song, going all the way to #1. Dan Quinn also had a hit with it that year, hitting #3. Sousa recorded the song as “Hiawatha Two-Step,” and it was also a #3 hit.

At the time, it was common to record songs on cylinders, which had a limited run time. However, “Hiawatha” was recorded on a 78 rpm flat disc to allow for a longer, three minute + run time. SM


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Last updated 12/15/2022.

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