Day of the Dead Takes On Greater Significance

Partly because I’m at the age where I know more people who are dead and partly because the pandemic is helping to increase that number for all of us, the Day of the Dead holds more meaning now. While the playlist for this show is similar to past Day of the Dead (Halloween) shows, the vibe (my vibe) has definitely changed.

The show kicks off with a riff on “St. James Infirmary” by Wendell Pierce playing the character of Antoine Batiste in the HBO series Treme. Batiste is waiting in the Touro Emergency Room when he does his impromptu singing, accompanied by an anonymous slap beat on a tin waste can.

Day of the Dead

What follows is music about death including a Preservation Hall Jazz Band version of “St. James Infirmary,” King Oliver’s “Dead Man Blues,” Treme Brass Band’s “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead,” Dirty Bourbon River Show’s “All My Friends are Dead” and Spencer Bohren’s “Ghost Train.”

That theme rolls into the next set with Shotgun Jazz Band’s “White Ghost Shivers” and a fascinating song called “Seven Skeletons Found in the Yard.”

After the first hour, its voodoo time with the help of The Neville Brothers, Spider Murphy, Charles Sheffield, Sunpie Barnes, and Benny Turner.

If you make it that far, you’ll hear my annual send up of Morgus the Magnificent — the original New Orleans fright show host that spawned a movie and a regional hit by Mac Rebennack, Jerry Byrne and Frankie Ford from 1059. This year, you’ll also hear the Creole String Beans cover of the same song. Here’s an earlier post with a lot more detail on Morgus, his show and the song.

I finish with a few spirituals including the most recognized one, “Saints,” by the Zion Harmonizers. My best to you and love to all those who are remembering a lost one.

Author: Tim Sweeney

Host of Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa - a two-hour radio show featuring the music of New Orleans -- every Thursday starting at 10 a.m. (PST) on community radio station KAOS 89.3 FM Olympia, Washington -- www.kaosradio.org. Show also airs on Fridays, 7 p.m., KMRE, 102.3 FM, Bellingham.

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