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Morning Song – Jambalaya (On The Bayou)

November 25, 2015

There’s a lot of talk—and rightfully so—in this country about the disgraceful history of white musicians and music industry professionals plundering the heritage, culture and talents of black folks.  (Yes, Pat Boone, we’re looking at you.)

There’s a broader point to be made: that professional musicians are plunderers, period.  (Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring was largely based on his grandmother’s Russian folk songs.)  Childhood memories, old (or new) love affairs, a catchy word or phrase—all are grist for the songwriter’s mill.

Growing up in Butler County, Alabama, Hank Williams was about as far from Cajun as a southern man could be, but—and this is part of his genius as a songwriter—he didn’t let that stop him from penning “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)”.

You may be about to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving feast, but there are folks in Louisiana who are about to have a better one.

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and fillet gumbo,
‘Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma chère ami-o;
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-o*,
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou
.

*”Gay”: a word which when used as here (and more generally in 1952, when “Jambalaya” was written) means something like “lighthearted and carefree“.

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