Lafayette Rep. Proposes ‘Southern Nights’ As Louisiana Cultural Anthem
A bill pending in the Louisiana Legislature would make a 1977 number-one hit the state's cultural song.
That song, "Southern Nights," is most closely associated with country musician Glen Campbell. The Rhinestone Cowboy topped the pop, country, and adult contemporary charts with that single, which was also certified gold by the RIAA. Campbell, a native of Arkansas, recorded the song because he identified with the lyrics about the nighttime breeze, trees, skies, and whistling tunes--themes that reminded him of his childhood in Arkansas.
So what does "Southern Nights" have to do with Louisiana?
New Orleans native and Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Allen Toussaint wrote the song about his upbringing in the Bayou State.
According to the story Toussaint tells in live versions of the song recorded in the years leading up to his 2015 death, the lyrics in "Southern Nights" are inspired by the trips to the country to visit his father's extended family.
Toussaint explained on his 2013 live album Songbook:
This piece is about growing up (and) being born in New Orleans and taking rides out in the country on some weekends with my father. He'd pack us up in the car and take us for a ride to visit the old folk out in the country who never would come to the city. They wanted nothing to do with the city except us, so we came to them. My father thought we had to go to know where we came from (and) to know where we were going. We didn't care about his philosophy, but we loved the ride.
We'd pull up in front of the acreage, and they'd be waiting for us on the porch, and they'd talk that real funny talk. They'd talk that Creole talk. Some of them spoke no English at all; they just talked that Creole. When they spoke that English, sometimes they had such an accent (that) you didn't know what they were talking about. You just had to look at the eyebrows. If they went up, they were angry. But we'd love it, and they'd be waiting on the porch.
That tie to Louisiana's Creole culture led Rep. Vincent Pierre (D-Lafayette) to introduce House Bill 351, which would make "Southern Nights" the state's cultural anthem. Grammy-winning zydeco musician and Creole cultural ambassador Terrance Simien testified in favor of the bill before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. After minimal discussion, the committee unanimously approved the bill and sent it to the full House for consideration.
To hear Toussaint's full story behind "Southern Nights," play the video below. The story begins at the 2:37 mark.