New Orleans, Louisiana, 1927… the great Mississippi river was swollen and flooding through every state it touched… Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas… all the way down to New Orleans, LA who, in April of that year received more than 4ft of rain in only 18 hours. In a futile attempt to relieve the city of flooding, less populated parishes of St. Bernard and Plaquemines were engulfed with water by planned levee destruction and people fought to recover…. This song by Randy Newman, written as a lament, captures the struggle of one of America’s oldest and most culturally rich cities to overcome literal and figurative floods which intend to destroy. The song was embraced as a love song for the city inspiring resilience in the wake of Hurricane Katrina which wrecked havoc on New Orleans in 2005 and had parallels with the 1927 flood – as levees failed and severely flooded the lower 9th ward which contains those same parishes central to this song. Newman’s song was adapted by artists, including in this live recording by John Boutté, to incorporate the devastating story of this modern storm and political fallout that ensued. It’s a rich American folk song documenting important stories that is able to be kept alive by modern artists who can add their story. It’s a reminder that music can have the power to bring people together in understanding difficult events throughout history.
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