New Orleans music

What the waters can’t destroy

Keri Carlson

It’s horrible to think the street corners where jazz was conceived have been washed away.

While known for being the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans has been an integral part of defining and reshaping all genres of American music – from soul, funk and blues to hip-hop and zydeco.

But at least the history of the Big Easy runs deeper than physical space. The music of New Orleans can still be enjoyed.

The following is a list of some of the greatest songs and artists to come out of New Orleans. It is by no means long enough to include everything. Instead, it is simply meant to be a reminder or reflection on New Orleans history and a hope that the city will grace the world with its music again soon.

King Oliver – “Chattanooga Stomp”
Named “King” by Kid Ory and Louis Armstrong’s idol, Oliver is a major part of the beginnings of jazz.

Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World”
His work with the Hot Fives and Sevens is perhaps better and more important, but this song is so perfect. The world really is wonderful when Armstrong sings.

Louis Prima – “Jump Jive an’ Wail”
Prima got America on its feet for the most swinging of all songs.

Smiley Lewis – “I Hear You Knocking”
Often forgotten beyond New Orleans, Lewis deserves a lot more credit for his influential early blues.

Fats Domino – “Ain’t That a Shame”
Fats’ smooth-as-velvet vocals sound especially stellar on this track even though “Blueberry Hill” is his most famous song.

Erma Thomas – “Time is on My Side”
Most people know the Rolling Stones’ cover, but once you hear New Orleans’ queen sing the original (which is also far superior) you’ll never look back.

Ernie K-Doe – “Mother-in-Law”
K-Doe made an entire career of this song. Sadly his “Ernie K-Doe Mother-in-Law Lounge” full of memorabilia likely is gone.

Lee Dorsey – “Coal Mine”
The best ode to a long workday.

Dixie Cups – “Chapel of Love”
The cutest love song from the girl-group era.

Professor Longhair – “Mardi Gras in New Orleans”
The Prof had a kind of blues style so distinctively New Orleans. On this song he brings an easygoing stomp to a crazy party.

Dr. John – “Right Place, Wrong Time”
We’ve all been there.

Jean Knight – “Mr. Big Stuff”
Most addictive bass riff, plus Knight sure knows how to put a big-headed man in his place.

Aaron Neville – “Tell It Like It Is”
And he does.

Meters – “Cissy Strut”
As funky as funk can get.

The Wild Tchoupitoulas – “Meet de Boys on the Battlefront”
This is a group made up of Mardi Gras Indians. The music is a blend of crazy, tribal funk that could have only come out of New Orleans.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band – “My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now”
A perfect mix of street band and funk band.

Mystikal – “Shake Ya Ass”
If James Brown had been a rapper in the new millennium, he would have made this song.