a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History

Big Alligator

Music/Lyrics: Chief Jim Billie

Vocals: Chief Jim Billie

Original Artist: Chief Jim Billie

Original Album: Alligator Tales (1998)

Debut: 1999-12-30

Historian: Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)

"Big Alligator" is often sung around a campfire setting. So, perhaps history will view our little swamp gathering on the last days of the 20th Century as one big glorious campfire.

From the liner notes to the Alligator Tales CD, “Big Alligator” tells: “A true story about not heeding the elder’s advice and a hard learned lesson of a young boy’s hunting trip in the swamp.” Sung by Chief Jim Billie in the first person, the song recounts his experience as a 12-year-old, losing his dog to the mortal clutches of a gator’s jaws on his first gator hunt. A tragic moment always vivid and remembered, the story is cautionary. The spellbinding chant – the wisdom of Jim’s Grandfather – is not in English, but the captivating nature of the rhythms speak a universal language of respect and coexistence with beings more powerful than ourselves in the natural or spiritual worlds.

It is a rhythm that certainly had 80,000 or so of us in tune with our environment when performed by Chief Jim Billie on 12/30/99, with a nifty little backup band, taboot. One can only hope that Phish and their fans earned the respect and hospitality offered to us by Chief Jim Billie and his tribe.

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