Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
Mardi Gras that began this week is a Christian holiday and popular cultural phenomenon that dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it’s celebrated in many countries around the world—mainly those with large Roman Catholic populations—on the day before the religious season of Lent begins. In many areas, Mardi Gras has evolved into a week-long festival with customs like throwing beads and other trinkets, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake and beignets. Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.
This week the music of New Orleans. Let’s get rolling.
Disney’s 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog” is set in New Orleans in 1926, and tells the story of Tiana who had childhood dreams of becoming a famous chef one day. Twenty years later, she is working non-stop shifts at a local diner, saving up her money to buy a building that she can transform into a restaurant.
Legendary New Orleans ambassador Dr. John sings.
Mac Rebennack was Dr. John’s real name. He flamboyantly wore voodoo beads and feathers onstage. In June of 2019 he suffered a heart attack and died. His family stated Dr. John “created a unique blend of music which carried his hometown, New Orleans, at its heart, as it was always in his heart.” He was 77.
Let’s say we take Dr. John up on his invitation and travel south.
Rock and roll/R & B singer Gary Bonds became a star at the age of 19. Promotional copies of this record were sent to radio stations in sleeves inscribed “Buy U.S. Bonds.” And Gary would be known ever since as Gary U.S. Bonds. This one pounds and pounds and pounds.
The song peaked at #6 on the Billboard chart.
Our next selection is a country classic written and recorded by country legend Hank Williams in 1952. Country, yes. But it oozes New Orleans.
The Carpenters recorded it for an oldies-themed album and perform it here in Japan where the group was very popular.
Elton John once labeled Karen Carpenter “one of the greatest voices of our lifetime.” Her friend Nicky Chinn mentioned in a BBC documentary that John Lennon once walked up to Carpenter in a Los Angeles restaurant and said, “I want to tell you, love, that you’ve got a fabulous voice.”
And how about this tidbit. In 1975, she was voted the best rock drummer in a poll by Playboy, beating the man who is often considered to be the best drummer of all time, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.
While it’s fun spreading music and stories every Friday it can be a chore choosing just what to include. Such was the case this week. So many terrific possibilities.
To make it simple here’s a medley of 17, count ’em, 17 Dixie tunes from Larry Elgart and his Orchestra. The famous bandleader capitalized on the popular “Hooked On” concept albums. You’ll hear Sweet Georgia Brown, Down By The Riverside, When The Saints Go Marchin’ In, and more.
BTW, Larry Elgart and his brother, fellow bandleader Les Elgart composed the original theme music for the TV’s “American Bandstand” hosted by Dick Clark.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
We close with a New Orleans folk melody often used for celebrations like parades. The translation of the “Jock-a-mo fee-na-nay” chorus is the subject of debate. Scholars submit that the phrase is Native American, West African, or a creolization of those languages with New Orleans French. What’s it mean? Answers vary from “Kiss my ass” to “Very good” to “The fool will not play today.”
Dr. John appears in one of his last known recordings, along with the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, New Orleans’ luminaries Ivan Neville, Donald Harrison, and George Porter, Jr., uniting musicians from Central Africa’s Congo to New Orleans’ Congo Square.