The Many Incarnations of “Louisiana 1927″

April 29th, 2008 by Josh Neufeld  

This past Sunday, the New York Times ran a nice little piece on Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927.” (Ever since I first heard it on Aaron Neville’s 1991 CD, Warm Your Heart, the song has been one of my favorites.) The article talks about how since its creation in 1975, the song has gone through many iterations. It seems that just about everybody who’s covered the tune—the Wild Magnolias, John Boutté, Willie Nelson, Martin Simpson,Terrance Simien, Howard Tate, the String Cheese Incident, and Neville are cited—have tweaked the lyrics to make it more poignant, more topical, and more specific. And of course since Katrina, the song has gone through even more lyrical “mashups”. For instance, Boutté’s version changes “Clouds roll in from the north” to “Clouds rolled in from the Gulf,” and the line “President Coolidge come down in a railroad train / with a little fat man with a notepad in his hand” became “President Bush flew over in an aeroplane / with about twelve fat men with double martinis in their hands.”

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