There may not be any other city as integral to America’s musical history as New Orleans. The city on the bayou is where Jazz was born, a musical genre which spurred a half-dozen new genres. New Orleans’s place at the end of the Mississippi Delta put it in proximity to the delta blues, and its multi-lingual and multi-cultural heritage continues to nurture innovation and creativity. This playlist showcases the diversity and talent of the Big Easy from the mid-twentieth century to today.
1. Just Kissed My Baby – The Meters – 1974
Formed in New Orleans in 1965, The Meters were one of the country’s biggest funk bands and helped popularize the genre outside the city. Second line rhythms were commonly use by bands in New Orleans at the time, and The Meters helped to espouse the technique.
2. Blue Monday – Fats Domino – 1959
There is no New Orleans export as famous as jazz. One of the city’s most beloved icons, Fats Domino popularized the swing jazz of the 50’s and was a bandleader, pianist and master improviser. He was one of the most famous performers of the 50’s and remains a jazz standard today.
3. Pink & White – Frank Ocean – 2016
One of the most enigmatic, elusive and critically acclaimed artists of the 2010’s, Frank Ocean is also a favorite son of New Orleans. Ocean’s impressive vocals, complex instrumentation and fearless experimentation made him an R&B star, and earned him credit for opening the genre to different forms and structures.
4. Blue Drag – Allen Touissaint – 2009
Musician, songwriter, producer and arranger, Touissaint was an R&B institution for half a century. Touissant’s legacy continues to shape R&B and his music helped shape funk, blues, jazz and southern soul for much of his career.
5. Long Weekend – Trombone Shorty – 2013
One of the country’s most exciting contemporary jazz musicians, Trombone Shorty brings classic jazz standards to life with a modern take. He has worked with big names in rap, R&B, and pop, demonstrating the enduring legacy that jazz holds in American music.
6. Codeine Dreaming – Kodak Black, Lil Wayne – 2017
One of 2000’s biggest rap stars, Lil Wayne is a product of his city’s rich musical heritage. A rap prodigy, Lil Wayne wrote his first rap song at age eight and was featured in albums by the time he was a teenager. Lil Wayne has sold over a hundred million albums worldwide, and continues to be an influential artist today.
7. Anyone Who Knows What Love Is – Irma Thomas – 2011
There are few singers more enduring and prolific than Irma Thomas. A contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, Irma Thomas built a career spanning fifty years, singing a variety of R&B, soul, blues, gospel and pop hits. In 2007 she won her first Grammy Award, a just recognition of her incredible career.
8. Mama & Papa – Earl King – 1997
Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Earl King is a New Orleans blues legend. He composed many of the numbers covered by later artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
9. Ants – Tank and the Bangas – 2019
As of this writing, recently nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Tank and the Bangas are a hip-hop and spoken word group from New Orleans. An internet sensation, they won 2017’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert Award and are known for their energizing and electric live performances.
10. Such a Night – Dr. John – 1973
Combining blues, jazz, funk and R&B, Dr. John built a fifty-year musical career out of New Orleans. As both a singer-songwriter and band leader, Dr. John produced dozens of albums and thousands of live performances.
11. A Tear For Stone – Drew Meez On The Keys – 2013
A native of New Orleans, Drew Meez features incredible keyboard skill with modern sensibilities and contemporary production. He is a fixture in the New Orleans club scene and tours and produces with a wide variety of artists.
12. Walk With Me – Renshaw Davies – 2017
Indie pop group Renshaw Davies are based in New Orleans and are a popular live music act in the city.
13. Mon Espirit – Sweet Crude – 2017
Performing mostly in French, Sweet Crude are an example of the enduring legacy of French Creoles in New Orleans. Their blend of rock, jazz and blues epitomize the diversity and fusion that make New Orleans unique.
14. Go Tell It On The Mountain – Mahalia Jackson – 1967
A gospel legend and icon, Mahalia Jackson was also a civil rights activist and social leader. She recorded thirty-five albums over her career and was inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame as well as the Louisiana Hall of Fame. She also helped mentor a young Aretha Franklin as she navigated her own gospel career.
15. Sometimes – Britney Spears – 1999
Hailing from rural Louisiana just north of New Orleans, Britney Spears grew to be a cultural icon and musical sensation. Her career was closely followed in the media and she is one of the best examples of the celebrity musicians that emerged in the 90’s and 2000’s. While she may be better known at times for her portrayals in tabloids rather than her music, Britney Spears remains a musical star.
16. Eh La Bas – Chester Zardis – 1998
A jazz double bassist, Chester Zardis was a staple on jazz circuits in New Orleans and around the wider country. He was a master of the slap style of bass playing common in New Orleans jazz and was able to overcome the acoustic difficulties of playing the instrument live for large audiences.
17. Bourbons and Lacs – Master P – 2007
One of New Orleans many hip-hop products, Master P was also a former professional athlete and businessman. His music features a unique storytelling and prominent enunciation. With his many business interests and musical production, Master P is considered by some to be one of the richest figures in hip-hop.
18. All My Friends – The Revivalists – 2018
An alternative rock and roots rock group based out of New Orleans, The Revivalists build a classic rock sound around New Orleans influences. Their set up includes a saxophone and they feature elements from other genres that they layer into their roots rock center.
19. I Could Write A Book – Harry Connick Jr – 1989
Singer and actor Harry Connick Jr brought jazz influences on his easy listening career. Heavily featured on soft jazz stations, Harry Connick Jr was an easy listening star for much of the 80’s and 90’s.
20. What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong – 1968
Arguably New Orleans’ most widely recognized musician, Louis Armstrong shaped jazz not only with his trumpet, but also through his gravelly vocals. What A Wonderful World continues to be a hit with audiences around the world, and cemented Armstrong’s place in the American musical pantheon.
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