Pianist Allen Toussaint was already holed up in New York City on September 21, 2005—driven from New Orleans by the flood resulting from the levee failures following Hurricane Katrina—when he sat down at the piano of Manhattan’s Avatar Studios to record “Yes We Can Can.”
Toussaint—the composer, arranger, and producer of hits spanning generations and genres, who died in 2015—wrote that song in 1970 for singer Lee Dorsey, as a message of hope and a call for communal action to heal societal ills. (The Pointer Sisters scored big with it a few years later). He had never recorded it himself, a fact he wasn’t likely thinking about. Just then, he simply wanted to return home, and to help his hometown heal.
The version Toussaint sang and played that day in 2005, tender and yet with a funky urgency, became the opening track of Our New Orleans, a lovingly if hastily assembled collection of then-new tracks from celebrated Crescent City musicians such as Dr. John and Irma Thomas, and lesser-known local heroes like pianists Eddie Bo and Davell Crawford. At the time of the album’s original release, in December of that year, little expressed the meaning and resonance of New Orleans musical traditions in the wake of devastation as completely as these recordings, recorded in studios in four cities by musicians mostly still in forced exile while their city was in ruins, its celebrated culture in unprecedented peril.
Originally published at https://www.thedailybeast.com/yes-now-we-know-exactly-what-it-means-to-miss-new-orleans?source=articles&via=rss on .