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This Billy Pilgrim song was re-imagined by the Virginia Gentlemen over a decade ago, and found its way onto BOCA #2 (1996).

Since then, it has become one of the most durable, frequently covered contemporary a cappella standards. Strange, because it lacks the two primary determiners of a cappella longevity: a song that was very successful in multiple versions (such as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" or "In The Still of the Nite"), and a song that was, in its original recording(s) very vocal.

The Billy Pilgrim original is obscure and not memorable. In addition, it doesn't feature a great deal of vocal harmony.

Why then has it proven so successful, so memorable, so durable?

I have a few theories:

* It's a good song. There are many great original tunes that never find much success on the radio, and yet the lyrics, melody and harmony all work together very well.

* It's a stellar arrangement. The song manages to capture the guitar's rhythmic intensity and yet remain very pleasingly vocal.

* The solo is not high, and as such sounds good in the standard male vocal range. Not all of us are Steve Perry/Robert Plant, and yet the majority of radio hits are written for a screaming high tenor voice (some suppose this is because it can be sung by women as well).

* It's not very difficult. Many fantastic tracks have been found on 15 different BOCAs, but they're often extremely complex and challenging (which is part of the reason they're so satisfying to listen to). Insomniac is rich and full, but not complex - a difficult target to hit, and the VG's hit it right in the middle.

Those, of course, are merely theories. What do you think?

And what other songs do you think have become contemporary a cappella standards, against the odds?

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