The Log Driver's Waltz
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|"The Log Driver's Waltz"|
|Song by Wade Hemsworth|
"The Log Driver's Waltz" is a Canadian folk song, written by Wade Hemsworth. The Log Driver's Waltz is also a Canadian animated film from the National Film Board, released in 1979 as part of its Canada Vignettes series.
The song celebrates the profession of log driving, a practice in the lumber industry which involved transporting felled timber by having workers walk or run on the logs as they floated down rivers. This occupation required a great deal of strength and physical agility, and Hemsworth was struck by how much the sight of log drivers at work resembled dancing.
The song's chorus is:
For he goes birling down a-down the white water
That's where the log driver learns to step lightlyA log driver's waltz pleases girls completely.
It's birling down, a-down white water
The lyrics are often misheard as "whirling" or "twirling" instead of "birling". "Birl" is an old Scots verb meaning "to revolve or cause to revolve", and in modern English means "to cause a floating log to rotate by treading". Today, birling survives as a competitive sport.
The song also contains considerable double-entendre, beginning with the sentiments of the opening stanza:
If you ask any girl from the parish around,
What pleases her most from her head to her toes;But I do like to waltz with a log driver."
She'll say, "I'm not sure that it's business of yours,
Many artists have recorded renditions of the song, which is an enduring classic of Canadian music. The most famous version, by Kate & Anna McGarrigle and the Mountain City Four, was the soundtrack for a 1979 animated short film by the National Film Board. Captain Tractor's version of the song was also a popular alternative rock hit in the late 1990s. The Hidden Cameras, an indie pop band from Canada, recorded a version of the song on their 2016 release, Home On Native Land.
The Log Driver's Waltz, 1979, was directed by John Weldon. The animation is set to the recording of the song by Kate and Anna McGarrigle with, and as part of, The Mountain City Four. The film is one of the most-requested in the entire collection of the National Film Board of Canada. The NFB also produced a French version of the film, "La valse du maître draveur", with lyrics translated by Philippe Tatartcheff, the McGarrigle sisters' longtime collaborator.
The Log Driver's Waltz is available for viewing on the National Film Board's website and on YouTube. Occasionally, The Log Driver's Waltz appears on Canadian channels like CBC Television as filler between two programs, much like Heritage Minutes.