It’s been a very rough month in the cultural community of New Orleans: writer Ronnie Virgets; restaurateur/activist Leah Chase; musicians Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack and Spencer Bohren; and artist Jamie Hayes have all passed on. Also, an old friend and colleague is leaving the New Orleans music scene for Colorado: Scott Aiges.
While we mourn the people who have left us, it’s just a symptom of change. All things must pass, and that’s true in New Orleans too.
While some of our musical heroes are passing on—Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Lil Buck Sinegal, Spencer Bohren, Eddie Bo, Harold Battiste, Jr., Wardell Quezergue, Ernie K-Doe, Snooks Eaglin, Charles Neville, and so many more over the years—this is life.
I’m kind of tired of hearing that all the “greats” are passing away. Well, yes, they were great, but there are up-and-comers who are going to take their places. It’s like saying that when Mozart died, there’d never be any more great music. This is hogwash.
There are hundreds of younger performers and musicians who are writing great songs, who are virtuosos on their instruments, who are creating great music and great art and wonderful entertainment that’s going to be appreciated in the future: Troy Andrews, Galactic, PJ Morton, Ivan Neville, Evan Christopher, Tuba Skinny, Big Freedia, Erica Falls, Ivan Neville, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (which keeps reinventing itself), James Singleton, John Gros, Cyril Neville, Davell Crawford, Kermit Ruffins, Jon Cleary, and so many more.
The New Orleans music scene will not die when we lose beloved artists. This city is such that it has inspired and created music and musicians and it will continue to do as long as the city exists, and probably when it becomes an island in the Gulf of Mexico (probably even more so, when that happens!)
I’m not at all afraid that the music of New Orleans will cease to continue. What I’m more concerned with is how we encourage and nurture young musicians; how do we make it easier for them to live here, be educated here, raise their kids here, and make a decent living playing music. Being an artist is never easy, especially in America. You’d think it would be at the top of the list in economic development here, but it isn’t. It behooves everyone who loves this city to put music at the top of their list of what must be “saved” in New Orleans. Without music, what would life in New Orleans be?