Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Undaunted joy of NOLA music

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we New Orleaneans had to endure the endless cast of professional pundits and social commentators telling us that New Orleans was "worth saving" because we gave two great gifts to America: food and music.

Forget that all American citizens deserve equal protection under law and the basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That seemed to be not enough to warrant serious response to the crisis. America needed more. America needed to know that if bad things happened to New Orleans, bad things would happen to America’s food and music.

But that is not what I want to blog about today. No, today and in several weekly blog posts to follow, I want to acknowledge the tremendous contributions New Orleans has made to music in America and even, in the world. And I want to focus in particular on the impact Katrina had on the music of this city.

It is said that, "Blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling down." Lester Bangs once noted that rock'n'roll is "The sound of restless youth." And it was George Harrison who once opined that pop music is just "Happy songs about sad things."

Citizens of NOLA have boatloads of all of the above. Local musicians, experiencing it probably more than the average New Orleanean, have found ways to express these emotions in music.

Feelings of sadness, frustration, doubt and, yes, conviction, courage and perseverance are expressed in many post-K compositions. And on top of it all, overwhelming, undaunted joy.

Over the next few blog posts, I will highlight some of my favorite local expressions of what the combined forces of nature and politics have done to coastal Louisiana--and the unbridled determination to rise above.

When I listen to these songs, I alternately feel the sadness and the joy, the tragedy and the triumph. It's what makes all great music great, and, in my admittedly biased opinion, it's what makes New Orleans music the greatest of all.


Exhibit One: Mr. Go by Bonerama

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