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Issue 51 - Elegy for the ‘Easy'

Whisky Magazine Issue 51
October 2005


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Elegy for the ‘Easy'

The death of New Orleans has been exaggerated

The elegaic song American Pie spoke of the day the music died. People were drinking whiskey (bourbon, presumably) and rye. The lyrics invited interpretation, most of it a trifle earnest.

Afriend of mine took a more frivolous tack, claiming that the song was about his car-repair shop. My friend's name is Levy.

As you may recall, singer Don Maclean took his Chevy to the levée. It is a word in the American language, not the English, but its origin is obviously French. As we all now know, levées attempt to contain the Mississippi in New Orleans.

If it were New Amsterdam, a Yankee (from the common Dutch Christian name Jan-Kees) would be taking his bike to the dyke. The Dutch term is more familiar, but the French more poetic.

American Pie did not mention New Orleans, but the poetry now seems to have been tragically prescient.

New Orleans is a haunting place, and the Mississippi a river of extraordinary power. I was 10 years old when the river seized my imagination, in the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

New Orleans is the definitive river town, and I believe it always will be, come both hell and high water simultaneously, not to mention Lake Ponchartrain, across which they say Buddy Bolden's cornet could be heard.

New Orleans jazz took me by the ear when I was 12, through Voice of America, and the city has held me in its grip ever since.

With a neighbourhood called Storyville, New Orleans must be the place for a writer. Tennessee Williams? Shouldn't his first ...

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