New Orleans residents share memories of New Orleans music

Closer Walk NOLA is one part art project and one part community history project. It asks for the memories of New Orleans residents relating to shared music, dance and neighborhood culture in the wake of Katrina and the politics of rebuilding. There are many voices that speak for New Orleans' diverse culture of music and masking. A Closer Walk asks after the experience of everyone: families and working folks of all kinds, amateur and professional musicians, people on sidewalks and in bars.

If you are a New Orleans resident (or left NOLA after the storm), view your neighbors’ memories of 3 songs important to New Orleans culture—Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Indian Red, and When the Saints Go Marching In—and add your own.

Just A Closer Walk With Thee has been a popular hymn in the American south since the 19th Century. It became a staple in evangelical musical gatherings especially among southern African American churches in the 20th Century. The Selah Jubilee Singers’ vocal-and-guitar recording for Decca in 1941 is generally acknowledged as the first major recording of the song. Closer Walk has since been recorded by a huge number of artists who perform folk, gospel, jazz, blues, country and roots music from Elvis to Wynton Marsalis. Most importantly, it is a song linked with the tradition of jazz funerals, and is still important to brass bands and mourners in the Crescent City.
Indian Red holds a special place in New Orleans music as a chant that was historically used to open or close music practices amongst some Mardi Gras Indians. The first major recording approximating it was Danny Barker’s in the mid-1940’s, but the song itself had long been a part of local Indian culture before any of its earliest recordings.
When the Saints Go Marching In is a 19th Century Protestant hymn which, through the traditions of brass bands and the influence of jazz, has become a song that practically stands in for the city of New Orleans itself. It is an anthem that all recognize, and that most local musicians learn young. At Preservation Hall, there is a sign about requests to the band that reads “traditional songs $5, other songs $10, The Saints $20” —perhaps because of its familiarity, perhaps only because many bands would end up playing it ten times a night if it were left to tourists.