Louisiana 1927

Album: Good Old Boys (1974)

Songfacts®:

  • Following several months of unusually heavy rain in late 1926 and early 1927, the Mississippi River flooded, and devastation on a colossal scale was to follow. Some 27,000 square miles were affected, with over 130,000 homes lost, 700,000 people displaced, and at least 200 dead. The state of Louisiana was hit particularly hard, and as often happens in the wake of natural disasters, recriminations followed concerning the reaction or apparent apathy of the nation's leaders. The President - Calvin Coolidge - in particular came in for scathing criticism.
  • Although Newman was born in Los Angeles, he grew up in Louisiana, and wrote this slow, somber ballad about the great flood in 1974. But 21 years later another, similarly terrible natural disaster in the form of Hurricane Katrina hit the Deep South, and Newman's song was adopted as an unofficial anthem. He performed it in a television fundraiser on September 9, 2005, and it is now indelibly associated with two of the Deep South's greatest tragedies.

    In a September 2008 interview with The Village Voice, he was asked if he would be playing it at every show until he retired. He replied: "I wouldn't have, because it's the same tune as 'Sail Away' and it's not quite as good a song maybe. But yeah, I do. I figure I'll be playing it now because people want to hear it." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
  • Newman penned this song after reading a book about the Mississippi flood, as well as a biography of left wing politician Huey Long, whose election to the governorship of Louisiana in 1928 was aided by the tragedy. Newman explained to NPR in a May 8, 2013 interview: "I had an aunt who worked for Long and they talked about - my mother is from New Orleans. Her family is still there - what - but it - what's left of her family is still there or - quite a bit really, the number of them are still around, still in New Orleans. And my cousin lost her - ended up losing house in Katrina.

    "They talked about the flood in 1927," he continued. "And I read a book about that flood too. And it was a big deal. I mean, it sort of ended the cotton business for a while, completely, and the workers migrated north, tremendous amounts. It was a giant historical event.

    And I wanted to write a song about North and South again. I've written a number of them, about the guy in the song, sort of, complains about the whole treatment, you know, not quite trusting the president coming down. And, you know, and it kind of did that, you know, I have the clouds coming in from the north, which they really never do. I mean, as if the North had sent these clouds down."
  • In the chorus, when Newman sings, "Louisiana... They're tryin' to wash us away," he's referring to the North, and the feeling that those states were indifferent to Louisiana and bordering states. It's a similar sentiment heard in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
  • New Orleans native Aaron Neville covered this song on his 1991 album Warm Your Heart, which was produced by Linda Ronstadt.

Comments: 3

  • Bill from UsRandy mentions Crackers in this song, if there were Crackers in Louisiana (and of course there are), they came from Florida!
  • Bill from UsWhen Marcia Ball (Texas/Louisiana) covers this song she leaves out the word fat in "little fat man, isn't it a shame". I guess she doesn't want to offend anyone.
  • Edward Pearce from Ashford, Kent, EnglandCheck out Aaron Neville's moving interpreation of this song, which can be found on his 1991 Warm Your Heart album.
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