New Orleans Mardi Gras tunes get rolled out like Christmas Carols. You may welcome them as harbingers of the rituals and reverie to come, but by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around, you may not be able to stomach another rendition of "They All Ask'd for You."
Even though it’s Carnival time, I summoned enough discipline to choose 10 (with a little stretching that comes with the local custom of Lagniappe, or a little bit extra) of my most tried and true Mardi Gras favorites -- in no particular order. They span a few of the eras, genres and populations that make New Orleans such a beautiful mess. These are the songs I turned to, long before I could watch Second Line parades on the internet or Treme on HBO, when I found myself marooned from Mardi Gras. These may not all be strictly Mardi Gras songs, but listening to them instantly connects me to the chaos of Carnival.
It’s Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday – the annual free-for all before the period of deprivation that Catholics call Lent. Today on Word of Mouth, the social and musical history of Mardi Gras, beginning where it was first celebrated in America: Mobile, Alabama. We speak to a filmmaker who reveals that the holiday remains a segregated celebration.
Then we head to the epicenter of American Carnival: New Orleans. Longtime NPR reporter, native New-Orleanian, and music aficionado Gwen Thompkins shares her essential Mardi Gras play list with us.
Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.
In New Orleans, the 2012 Mardi Gras is just a memory. But for those who collect Mardi Gras memorabilia, the celebration lasts all year.
Some of those collectors will be at the Kenner Mardi Gras Museum on Thursday. It's about a half-hour drive from the French Quarter — not a convenient trip for many tourists, and declining attendance is one reason it closed after two decades. Now its collection will be auctioned.