I romanticized a long embrace
You see I lost my tongue
and burned my Bible
But made it back home to New Orleans
Philippe d'Orleans, namesake of the city
"We felt it very important to show our adoration for one of our favorite cities and one of the most culturally rich and vibrant places in the world," says the band Rancid on their Myspace page about their song “New Orleans” being a tribute to the Louisiana city.
In recent years, New Orleans has made headlines for tragic reasons. In 2005, the city suffered the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm considered the sixth strongest in the history of US hurricanes. This natural disaster ended up causing over $80 billion dollars (USD 2005 estimate) worth of damage to New Orleans and surrounding areas. The storm irrevocably changed the landscape of the city, and the effects of the storm are still visible despite ongoing clean-up and reconstruction efforts.
Located in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans straddles the Mississippi River about 105 miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico. Named after Philippe d'Orleans, Duke of Orleans and Regent of France, the city is well known for its French Creole heritage, visible in architecture and audible in the accents and street slang of the city's inhabitants. New Orleans is considered the most unique city in America, a conflagration of culture making the city famous for cuisine, music – especially jazz – and celebrations, such as the annual Mardi Gras held in February. Religion here is also a unique blend of old-world superstition overlaid with Christian flavors. Absent from the Bible Belt, New Orleans tends towards Louisiana voodoo, syncretic with Roman Catholic beliefs.
One of the effects of Hurricane Katrina
New Orleans has also become synonymous with the image of the vampire, thanks largely in part to the canon by Anne Rice. The protagonist in her Vampire Chronicles, Lestat, is a French nobleman, come to the New World to revel in the vibrancy and shadows of New Orleans. Anne Rice is not alone in her portrayal of the darker side of the city. Poppy Z Brite has written several horror novels set in the city and even musicians are tempted by the supernatural elements prevalent in everyday New Orleans culture. Sting's “Moon over Bourbon Street” is about a vampire stalking the streets of New Orleans while The Animals and Rolling Stones pay tribute to a very different kind of New Orleans with their songs "The House of the Rising Sun"
and “Brown Sugar.”
Music has always been integral to the culture and vibe of New Orleans, making it unsurprising that yet another band would want to pay tribute to the great city. Rancid bassist Matt Freeman said, "New Orleans is an important city to any musician that has ever been there. We have been lucky enough to have been going there since the '80s with Operation Ivy. I know it will come back. It's that special and resilient a place." Today, thanks to the continued efforts by the government and aid workers, New Orleans seems to finally be on the road to recovery from the devastation of Katrina, although the city will forever bear the scars.
Odd Fellows Cemetery, end of Canal Street, New Orleans
Released on the 2009 album, Let the Dominoes Fall
, “New Orleans” features guitarist Lars Frederiksen as lead vocalist. The album debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200, making this Rancid's highest charting album to date. The song itself is in the same thumping punk tradition as much of Rancid's other music, with somewhat more poetic lyrics describing the beauty and scars of the city. There is one verse in particular that sums up post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, reminding listeners of the hardships faced by the city but also of the courage of her inhabitants to survive such a disaster: “She's got a scar on her velvet face, She's got a smile like a newborn child, She's gotta walk, a Stoic Grace.” ~ Suzanne van Rooyen
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include
Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and
The Other Me. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and eats far too much peanut-butter.
New Orleans Songfacts
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