Louisiana 1927

You know, there are songs out there that have touched many lives but you've probably never heard. Louisiana 1927 may just be that kind of song. I'm not sure I'd ever heard. Last December when I saw Justin Townes Earle live at Webster Hall he did an acapella rendition of this beautiful, soulful melancholic song which at the time I didn't know had been penned by Randy Newman. JTE blew me away with that song, the sudden rush of silence in the crowd... it was emotional.
When I got back to the apt. after the show, I googled the phrases I remembered and found the song on Spotify. Aaron Neville's version is heavenly but I love the original Randy Newman recording, there's just something there in the way he phrases those lines.
The song itself is fairly simple in lyrical structure, I think
In 1927 the Mississippi River flooded a good chunk of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. A lot of things were done that made it worse for residents of certain poor areas but avoided damage to wealthy parts of New Orleans, for example. This Nytimes article ( www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/arts/music/27hime.html) speaks in depth about the songs origins, and what has happened to it after Katrina and many musicians have modified it to reflect that tragedy.

From the article: His fascination{Randy Newman's... LS} with Louisiana led him to books about the state’s legendary governor Huey Long, known as the Kingfish, who used the 1927 flood to stoke rural resentment against the big-city bosses and to win his first term the next year. As John M. Barry wrote in “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America” (1997), the most powerful businessmen in New Orleans illegally dynamited levees to make sure the city stayed dry.

Mr. Newman’s research led to "Louisiana 1927" (as well as “Kingfish”) on his 1975 album, “Good Old Boys” (Reprise). He delivered the story with an understated detachment, as if he were a hard-bitten newspaperman or a fatalistic farmer.
(A Flood of Emotion in a Song By GEOFFREY HIMES, April 27, 2008 NY Times)

The original lyrics

What has happened down here is the wind have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through cleard down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangelne

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame what the river has
To this poor crackers land."

Randy Newman speaks about his song in this clip from NPR

Here's one of Randy Newman's recordings of the song. Not sure if this is the original recording or the version he did after Katrina.

Here's Aaron Neville's version. Beautiful!

Here's Justin Townes Earle acappella in Austin. There's more than a few other live takes by him on youtube from different shows

Listen to Randy Newman's original recording from his Good Old Boys album (1974) on SPOTIFY


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