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Louisiana played an essential role in the history of music. As the “melting pot” of various cultures, it provided an avenue for African-American musical traditions to mix with others, which is how jazz music came to be. Aside from being the “birthplace of jazz,” Louisiana is also the birthplace of one of the most beloved legendary jazz musicians – Louis Armstrong.
Many songs about Louisiana perfectly depict the southeastern state. So, get ready for a musical journey, because what better way to learn about a state than listening to music about it?
11 Songs About Louisiana
1. “Fire on the Bayou” by the Meters
“I got swamp water runnin’ through my veins
The Mississippi River can’t be tamed
I pole my pirogue in the middle of the night
I’m an uptown ruler, I can do it right.”
Swamps are a definite symbol of Louisiana, and the Mississippi River has always had a significant influence on Louisiana musicians. “Fire on the Bayou” also reminds us of the unusual holiday tradition in the Great River Road region (between New Orleans and Baton Rouge). In December, dozens of 20-foot-high pyramids consisting of logs are set on fire. The locals call them the Christmas bonfires, and they can be seen along the levees of the Mississippi River.
2. “Lake Charles” by Lucinda Williams
“He had a reason to get back to Lake Charles
He used to talk about it
He’d just go on and on
He always said Louisiana
Was where he felt at home.”
Lucinda Williams wrote this song about her late boyfriend, who always felt like he belonged in Louisiana, even though he was born in Texas. Beside Lake Charles, in the song, Lucinda describes driving through Lafayette and Baton Rouge and crossing Lake Pontchartrain.
3. “Louisiana” by Tim McGraw
“Gotta get back there again
To the sweet sounds of the bayou
Let it wash right over me
Make me whole again
Bring back that missing piece
That I left in Louisiana.”
In the song, the narrator recalls growing up in Louisiana. Louisiana-born McGraw actually recorded the song for a benefit to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina.
4. “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” by Louis Armstrong
“Do you know what it means
To miss New Orleans
When that’s where you left your heart
And there’s something more
I miss the one I care for
More than I miss New Orleans.”
The song was written for the 1947 movie “New Orleans” and initially sung by Billie Holiday. In the song, Louis sings about missing New Orleans, along with the Mississippi River, Mardi Gras, and the mocking birds singing in the tall sugar pines.
5. “Born on the Bayou” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Wish I were back on the bayou
Rollin’ with some Cajun Queen
Wish that I were a fast freight train
A-just a-choogling on down to New Orleans”
Even though John Fogerty, the front man of CCR, was born and raised in California, he was always obsessed with Louisiana music. This is also the reason he sings with a New Orleans accent. Fogerty even wrote the song based on the information he learned from books, without ever having been on the bayou.
6. “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” by Professor Longhair
“Well I’m goin’ to New Orleans
I wanna see the Mardi Gras
Yes I’m goin’ to New Orleans
I wanna see the Mardi Gras
When I see the Mardi Gras
I wanna know what’s carnival for.”
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is Louisiana’s most famous carnival celebration. It was initially celebrated by the residents of French and Catholic heritage but eventually was accepted by all the other residents of New Orleans. Approximately 1.4 million people attend Mardi Gras every year.
7. “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
Pumped a lot of ‘pane down in New Orleans
But I never saw the good side of the city
‘Til I hitched a ride on a riverboat queen.”
This is another classic rock hit by Creedence resulting from Fogerty’s obsession with Louisiana. The song describes a man’s journey down the Mississippi River on a riverboat. The narrator had never experienced New Orleans in the right way before going on a riverboat.
8. “Marie Laveau” by Bobby Bare
“Down in Louisiana, where the black trees grow
Lives a voodoo lady named Marie Laveau
She got a black cat’s tooth and a Mojo bone
And anyone who wouldn’t leave her alone
She’d go … another man done gone.”
This 1974 country song describes Marie Laveau, a Creole woman notorious for being an occult practitioner. The man in the story was looking for a spell for good health, but he fell prey to her dark magic after rejecting Marie.
9. “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On” by Jimmy Buffett
“And it rained, it was nothing really new
And it blew, we’ve seen all that before
And it poured, the Earth began to strain
Pontchartrain leaking through the door, tides at war.”
Louisiana is, unfortunately, a region prone to hurricanes. Jimmy recorded this song after Hurricane Katrina, which took at least 1,833 lives. Through this song, Jimmy tried to console the people of Louisiana and help them move on and recover.
10. “Callin’ Baton Rouge” by Garth Brooks
“Callin’ Baton Rouge
Operator, won’t you put me on through
I gotta send my love down to Baton Rouge
Hurry up, won’t you put her on the line
I gotta talk to the girl just one more time.”
The song tells a story of a trucker who left a love interest in Baton Rouge because he had to work. While driving down the highway, he can’t stop thinking about the girl from Baton Rouge and reuniting with her.
11. “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty
“Hey, Louisiana woman, Mississippi man
We get together every time we can
The Mississippi River can’t keep us apart
There’s too much love in the Mississippi heart
Too much love in this Louisiana heart.”
Even though many musicians covered the duet, it was originally performed by Lynn and Twitty. The couple in the song tries to keep their love alive, even though the Mississippi River is stopping them from being together. Eventually, they need to decide who will leave their hometown and move across the river.
Final Thoughts on Songs About Louisiana
In order for you to get a better sense of the spirit of the Bayou State, we’ve gathered this playlist of 11 songs about Louisiana for your listening pleasure.
Make sure to check out the songs and videos in the provided links. Hopefully, they will encourage you to visit the next Mardi Gras!