Louisiana has developed one of the most unique and interesting cultures in the entire United States of America. The cultural mixture of French, African, and Caribbean influences had led to a people unlike any other across the nation. From the parades and ambiance of Mardis Gras to Cajun cuisine and the swampy bayous of the state to its big cities, there’s just no place quite like this state.
New Orleans, in particular, has been a centerpiece of the jazz world for nearly a century. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 35 best songs out there that talk about the great state of Louisiana and the people who live there.
1. House of The Rising Sun – The Animals
House Of The Rising Sun is an incredibly old song that has gone by several names, sometimes being called Rising Sun Blues. While the original author is mostly unknown, it started out as a traditional folk track as early as the 16th or 17th century. Many iterations led to its introduction in the Appalachian folk records, but the most famous version of the song came from The Animals in 1964.
Their version tells the story of a person’s life in New Orleans that has gone awry, serving as a cautionary tale to urge others to avoid the fate of the protagonist of the track. The “House of the Rising Sun” in the track refers to bars, the court of Louis XIV, and pleasure houses across varying versions.
2. Down at The Twist and Shout – Mary Chapin Carpenter
Down At The Twist And Shout might refer to the famous Maryland dance venue The Twist And Shout, and the dance associated with it, but this song is purely about Louisiana. It was a major country hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1991, peaking at number two on the country charts.
The Cajun themes are strong in this one, referencing the hurricanes of the Gulf Coast, the culture of New Orleans, and Cajun food favorites like crawfish and alligator. The track even won her a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female.
3. Walking to New Orleans – Fats Domino
Fats Domino might be one of the biggest names in the early New Orleans R&B scene. He was integral to the birth of the rock and roll genre and was a massive influence on some of the most important artists to ever get into music. His song Walking To New Orleans was actually written by Bobby Charles, a big fan of his work, who showed him some tracks when the two had met.
After being invited to Domino’s home in New Orleans, he said he’d have to walk since he didn’t have a car, which led to him writing and eventually presenting this song to Domino who loved it.
4. Born on The Bayou – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Born On The Bayou was released as part of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bayou Country album and served as the B-side single for Proud Mary in 1969. Despite the band being from California, it turned out to be a fairly accurate representation of life in the Louisiana swamplands.
Thanks to the unique culture of the people there, John Fogerty was able to include some references few people were familiar with. The “Hoodoo” refers to a set of traditional African beliefs that were brought over to the US by enslaved people. In this case, it largely concerned conjured spirits, but the belief system goes much deeper than a bayou ghost story.
5. Royal Orleans – Led Zeppelin
Royal Orleans was a hilarious song inspired by a hotel that Led Zeppelin loved to stay at when they were in New Orleans. They were known for going to gay bars in the city because they didn’t get hassled as much and had more fun there. The track itself was about a guy who picks up a drag queen but doesn’t discover until the next morning that they spent the evening with a man. It’s also said that this was based on the experience of John Paul Jones and was meant to poke lighthearted fun at the whole thing.
6. Queen of New Orleans – Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi released Queen Of New Orleans on their Destination Anywhere album in 1997. The song tells a story about a woman he fell in love with in the city who was exceptional in every way. It was a short but incredible relationship, leaving him wanting more and he spends much of the track reminiscing on the good times the two had together. It made a pretty solid dent in the charts as well, peaking at number 10 in the UK and becoming a top-40 hit in several other countries.
7. Louisiana Saturday Night – Mel McDaniel
Louisiana Saturday Night is probably one of the most famous songs about the state and definitely one of the most rowdy. Written by Bob McGill and recorded by Mel McDaniel in 1981, the track is strangely often attributed to both the band Alabama and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band by some. Even today, this song is played before every Louisiana State University Football home game. It’s a fun little dance track that brings the whole family together.
8. Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man – Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty
Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man was the title track of the third collaborative album produced by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. It was released as the first single from the album in 1973 and became the pair’s third number-one single on the country charts shortly after.
In addition to the Cajun vibe of the song, it details the story of a couple separated by the Mississippi River, with one on the Mississippi bank and one on the Louisiana bank. They pledge that the distance is nothing in the face of their love and everything eventually works out for the two.
9. Callin’ Baton Rouge – Garth Brooks
Baton Rouge is another one of the most popular cities in Louisiana, and this country music song makes it the location of the protagonist’s lover. It was first written by Dennis Linde and several artists covered the track over the years. But it would be Garth Brooks’ version of the song in 1994 that became the most popular.
It made it to number two on the country charts and continued a major chart run of success for him. The track has some strong bluegrass roots in it, telling the tale of a man who’s trying to contact a woman he spent a night with while traveling through the area.
10. Louisiana Melody – David Ball
David Ball released Louisiana Melody on his 2004 album Freewheeler. The big idea of the song is that it compares having part of a track stuck in your head, likening it to what it feels like to be in love with someone who is far away. It turns out to be a pretty catchy song, influenced by the Cajun themes and setting he decided to place into the track.
11. Lady Marmalade – Patti LaBelle
French Cajuns have integrated French and English into their own way of speaking. One of the more suggestive sentences you can put together goes “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” a phrase that essentially translates to “Do you want to sleep with me?” This was integrated as a repeated line in the chorus of Lady Marmalade, a song that became a hit single when she recorded it in 1974, taking the top spot of the Hot 100 for a week.
12. Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight – Oak Ridge Boys
Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight is a song about leaving the state of Louisiana rather than a celebration of the state. In it, a girl named Mary falls in love with a guy whom her mother disapproves of. Thanks to his roaming lifestyle, she becomes inspired to join him on his adventures on the road. Rather than sneak off in the middle of the night, she doesn’t think she should feel ashamed, hence her leaving in broad daylight when anyone can see what she’s doing.
13. Louisiana Rain – Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Louisiana Rain served as the final track of Tom Petty’s Damn The Torpedoes album. It focuses on a man who travels around the country but feels lost emotionally and the only way to resolve his problems is to return home to New Orleans. The rain in the song is a metaphor, serving as a way that he becomes cleansed each time he goes back to Louisiana.
14. Iko Iko – Dixie Cups
Iko Iko turned out to be a big international hit for the Dixie Cups after it was released as a single in 1965. It originated as a story about two warring Mardi Gras groups and a parade collision that occurred, which set the two at odds. The entire Mardis Gras holiday season is irrevocably linked with the city of New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole, even though many of the traditions associated with it came from the holiday celebrated in medieval France.
15. Louisiana: Give Me Louisiana – The Royal Pendletons
Louisiana: Give Me Louisiana was released on the Royal Pendletons’ 1998 album Coolidge 50. A garage band that got their start in the state, their blues and folk-inspired sound is the perfect representation of Louisiana. Whether you happen to be from the state or not, this one will make you feel nostalgic for Louisiana’s magnolia trees and bayous.
16. Louisiana Moon – Alabama
Alabama knows a thing or two about Southern culture, so it should come as no surprise that they make an entry onto this list as well as our other state lists. Louisiana Moon is the story of a man who falls in love with a woman named Betty, but her father disapproves of the relationship. Rather than give up, the man visits her at night under the Louisiana moon, secretly ensuring that their relationship can continue.
17. Jambalaya – Hank Williams
If you know anything about Louisiana soul food, you’ve at least heard of jambalaya. A favorite dish of mine and a staple of the state, it’s one of the most important and notable Cajun dishes in the world. Hank Williams Sr. also appeared to be a fan of it, composing Jambalaya after hearing other Cajuns talk about it and some of their other favorite Cajun dishes. It’s a tribute to classic food in The Bayou State and well worth a spot on any Louisiana playlist.
18. Louisiana Man – Lucinda Williams
Lucinda Williams released Louisiana Man on her Happy Woman Blues album in 1980. It’s an old mashup of country and folk music that tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a bloke from Louisiana. She travels quite a bit, which puts a strain on their relationship, but her man back in the state of Louisiana is never far from her thoughts when she’s away.
19. Louisiana 1927 – Randy Newman
In 1927, the Mississippi River flooded, displacing thousands of residents and causing untold amounts of damage across several states. This song by Randy Newman focuses on the flood in Evangeline, Louisiana, recounting the historical event but also using it as a metaphor for the way it washed away the culture of the people who called the place home prior to the flood.
20. Apache Rose Peacock – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Few places are as interesting to people to see as New Orleans, which is a fact that remains true for residents and tourists alike. Red Hot Chili Peppers enjoyed it too, writing the song Apache Rose Peacock about the state of Louisiana and the unique people of New Orleans. It remains one of the best rock tracks about the state and sounds right at home with the funky guitar strums that give them their signature sound.
21. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Proud Mary is one of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s most famous songs and was a major hit for both them and Tina Turner. It describes a day on a riverboat, traveling down the Mississippi River on the way to New Orleans. It’s incredibly catchy and was released by the band in 1968 on their Bayou Country album.
22. Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On – Jimmy Buffett Feat. Caroline Jones
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On is a slow ballad about being able to move on from mistakes. The song uses the story of a conman in Lake Pontchartrain who sells the narrator a watch with no hands or numbers on it, only the word now. It’s a moving track about living in the moment and not worrying about past mistakes.
23. Louisiana – Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw is a Louisiana native who loves his home state. Released in 2016, his song Louisiana is an ode to the time he spent in the state as a child and how nostalgic he feels when he thinks about going back.
24. Down Louisiana Way – George Strait
George Strait released Down Louisiana Way on his 1994 album Lead On. He is a man who has traveled all over the country, and many places around the world, while touring and singing. And while he has friends in big cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, he thinks his best bet to find true love will come in Louisiana. The song is essentially a celebration of the people and lifestyle of the state, leaning on those Southern roots that made him such a great country music artist.
25. Louisiana Hot Sauce – Sammy Kershaw
Sammy Kershaw is a Louisiana native who grew up in Kaplan, Louisiana. Hot sauce and spices are a big part of the cuisine there, so it’s no surprise that it made an appearance in one of his songs. Louisiana Hot Sauce is about falling in love with a spicy woman from the state, incorporating several of the most important instruments to Louisiana like horns. While it wasn’t a major hit or anything like that, the track is a great representation of the attitude of those living in the state.
26. Adalida – George Strait
Another great song about Louisiana from George Strait, Adalida talks about a pretty Cajun girl who goes by that name. Without the fancy clothes or makeup you would expect to attract men, she has an effortless beauty about her that enraptures the man in the track.
27. In The Clear – Foo Fighters
Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, and many benefit songs ended up being written to help the city rebuild. Foo Fighters were in on the action, recorded In The Clear alongside the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on location in New Orleans for their eighth album Sonic Highways. It focuses on the resilience of the city’s residents in the face of adversity after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
28. Marie Laveau – Bobby Bare
Marie Laveua was a prominent voodoo practitioner who earned her name as the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Myths and stories about her life abound, making her one of the most famous residents of the city and a folkloric figure despite having been a real person. Bobby Bare pays tribute to the witch in this song with her name as the title. It tells some of the stories about her, focusing on how she made annoying men disappear when they did her wrong.
29. New Orleans Ladies – LeRoux
LeRoux is a band from Louisiana, and if you’re from the South, you’d have known that right away by the way their name is spelled. A Southern rock outfit, their song New Orleans Ladies pays tribute to the city’s beautiful women and highlights some of their best traits, like their sass and passion for life.
30. Dark Lady – Cher
Dark Lady served as the title track of Cher’s 1974 album, and it deals with the supernatural elements of New Orleans. The song mainly tells the story of a fortune teller from the city who tells a woman that her lover is cheating on her. This time, there are no psychic abilities involved, the fortune teller knows because she happens to be the other woman.
31. Lake Charles – Lucinda Williams
The narrator of Lake Charles always feels a pull to go back home to the city. Despite having been born in Texas, the palace he truly wants to be is in Lake Charles, thanks in part to the lover he’s left behind there.
32. Bourbon Street – Little River Band
Bourbon Street is the party capital of New Orleans, which makes it the perfect place to drown your sorrows. That’s the plan for the protagonist of the song Bourbon Street by Little River Band. The narrator is a struggling musician who can’t make rent, so they turn to the French Quarter of New Orleans to stave off those sad emotions.
33. New Orleans – Kid Rock
Kid Rock switches up his style in this one, adopting the jazzy influences of the city of New Orleans to talk about how great the city is and how much he wants to go there. Everything about it is right for him, from the food to the music and even the people he’s met.
34. the Witch Queen of New Orleans – Redbone
Marie Laveau is indeed the most famous New Orleans resident, so it shouldn’t be a shock that she’s mentioned here more than once. Redbone penned the song The Witch Queen Of New Orleans, a title given to the voodoo practitioner Laveau, sharing stories of the myths surrounding her life. Perhaps the most famous of them was the time she was possessed by the Devil and lived in a shack in the swamp.
35. Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day – Benny Grunch
We’ll end off with one of the silliest songs about New Orleans and the Mardi Gras parades you’re going to be able to find. This one is all about drinking too much during the festivities and having to go to the bathroom but finding out there’s no place to relieve yourself. The street is not the answer you should choose by the way.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.