Friday, August 28, 2015

Words and Music: Story of New Orleans


Was it really 10 years ago when the levies broke, when Hurricane Katrina flooded and drowned so much of New Orleans? I can still remember the horrifying images and footage, the desperation and suffering, and the history of injustice and unrest laid bare for all the world to see. 

This song came to me almost all at once during a meeting at work, weirdly enough. (I'm terrible at paying attention to work meetings. God, they're the worst, aren't they?) I scrambled to write it all down when I got back to my computer. 

Weirder still, I got an out-of-the-blue email from a friend of mine literally minutes afterward -- the only person I knew or know who actually grew up in New Orleans. She helped me finish it with some desperately needed authenticity and sensitivity. 

It's an optimistic song at heart, and we've since revisited the Big Easy for an incredible time at Jazz Fest in 2009. But New Orleans is still very much in the process of an uneven redemption

Anyway, it took me a long time to get it down on CD, and in a much different (and I hope you'll say better) form than the fast, disjointed acoustic version I played live for so many years. 

On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's horrific landfall, here's the Story of New Orleans.



Story of New Orleans
© Jon Gorey 2005

Intro/verses: [D / G x infinity]

Down for the festival some years ago 
Woke up at 2 a.m. to go see a show 
At Tipitina’s we drank on the lawn 
Pulled up onstage and then kicked out at dawn 
In New Orleans, New Orleans 

A friend of mine spent his New Year’s Eve 
In some girl’s arms above Bourbon Street 
And later on when the morning came 
He knew her story but not her name 

[D] New Or-[G]leans, [D] New Orleans [G] -- oh I’m [A] sure 
Nobody’s loved you [D] more 

[D] Then the music [A] stopped, the ocean [D] swelled 
Our brothers, friends, and [A] children trapped in [D] hell 
[Bm] And every rambling [A] heart the world [D] around 
[Bm] Mourned as our [A] beloved city [D] drowned 

And so my dreams were broken in two 
The memory of her and the sight of you 
I had to be there, I had to go 
Was she gone forever? I just had to know 
My New Orleans, New Orleans, oh be sure 
I said a prayer for her 

Walking down the streets and boulevards 
Trees torn from their roots, abandoned cars 
But somewhere in the air, I heard the sound 
Of saxophones and trumpets underground 

Looking around at all the work to be done 
Enough to overcome most anyone 
But the man on the stoop of his gutted out home 
Humming a gospel song, was not alone 

The family next door they lost everything, too 
They picked up the pieces as they picked up the tune 
People kept singing, yeah, pulling through 
Music don’t die, and neither will you 
My New Orleans, New Orleans, oh be sure 
I’ve never loved you more

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