How High’s The Water, Mama?

Answer? Three feet high and rising. And so, with these words, Johnny Cash named the greatest hip-hop album ever. From that album, De La Soul released arguably their best-known single, ‘The Magic Number’. Like everything else on the album, it was cut, pasted ‘n’ jigsawed together from a variety of eclectic sources. Soul, funk, country, jazz, rock, spoken word comedy. They’re all in the great melting pot of the single known as The Magic Number.  


Syl Johnson ‘Different strokes’ (“Do the shangalang!”)

The Jackson 5ABC

Bob Dorough ‘Three Is The Magic Number’

Led Zeppelin ‘The Crunge’

Eddie Murphy ‘Anybody In The Audience Ever Get Hit By A Car?’

Johnny Cash ‘Five Feet High And Rising’

Double Dee and Steinski ‘Lesson 3 (History of Hip Hop mix)*, which itself samples;

*Schoolhouse Rocks ‘The Magic Number’

*Bill Cosby ‘Got To Have Soul’

*Putney Swope ‘Got To Have Soul’

* ……and many other records that I don’t know. I imagine De La Soul used the Double Dee record as the basis for their track, but I could be wrong.


De La Soul also remixed The Magic Number. ‘The Too Mad Mix’ isn’t essential, but worth a listen. How can you improve the original? You can’t, but here’s Jeff Buckley mucking around somewhere onstage (unknown audience recording bootleg) making a good go of Bob Dorough’s original.

If you haven’t found them already, you can also find the list of records that were used to make ‘Eye Know’ here.

Hope you’ve got your blank CDs ready after all that downloading!

4 thoughts on “How High’s The Water, Mama?”

  1. Just tripped upon your blog while searching for an image for a friend Jock, and like what I initially see, I shall have a good gander later.

    The Buckley version is from his well loved New Years Eve in 1995, performed at the Mercury Lounge, and widely (if you know where to hunt) available on the bootleg Tears From The Stars.

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