New Orleans Jazz Funeral

I have been wondering what I should post for my next music video. There are so many of my favorite New Orleans musicians I want you to see.

I lived in New Orleans for nearly 10 years and I LOVED it there. At one time I thought I’d never leave. I loved the cuisine. There’s a line in a song by the New Orleans Jazz Poetry group that sums that up with “the whole day slid down my throat like gravy. My fingers still smell like food.”

I loved the music. I loved the people and I loved the culture of New Orleans. It is, or was before Katrina, a unique place in the world. But Katrina changed everything. It will never be the same again. It will, I’m afraid, be just a parody of its former self, and that is so sad. I know I will never return. It would break my heart.

So much of what is shown in movies is cliche and one of those is the Jazz Funeral. But those are real. I only attended one while I lived in New Orleans. It was for Professor Longhair in 1980 on a bright February day…the coldest day of the year as it happened. Hundreds of his fans turned out to see him off. Most of them brought cameras. I did not. I went to honor the man, the musician and to honestly pay my respects to a man who gave me so many special nights at Tipitina’s. I couldn’t take pictures. In my mind it would been disrespectful.

Jazz funerals are special events for special people. Primarily for members of the local musical family, but not always. People who have played a special role in the community at large are often honored with a Jazz Funeral. These are not mournful events. They are paying tribute to the LIFE of the person, not his/her loss.

There are many Jazz Funeral videos on youtube but this one, I think is special. It was for James Kerwin, New Birth Brass Band tuba player. Some people might find the handling of the casket shocking and perhaps, even, disturbing, but it is spontaneous and done with love, not disrespect.

Love it, or hate it, this is a powerful video.

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Precious Jesus, hear my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Precious Jesus, hear my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Precious Jesus, hear my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.


Filed under New Orleans

4 responses to “New Orleans Jazz Funeral

  1. joycepa

    Ye gods, Richard, what a great post and great video! I have no problem with what was “done” with the casket. I agree–it’s a celebration of life, not loss.


  2. oldsalt1942


    Thanks for your comment. I get chills watching it, and there’s so much going on.

    In the beginning the “marshal” struts down the steps with his sash and black fedora. That’s typical.

    Besides “dancing” with the casket which I’ve not seen elsewhere, what was really spontaneous and unusual was the music. Normally it’s a single band that plays but did you notice how many people brought their own instruments and played along in joyous tribute to the man?

    We should all be so lucky to be so loved and honored in such a way. When I go it’s probably going to be just me and the guy who locks up the parlor at night.

    • joycepa

      I did indeed see all the individuals with instruments but had no idea that that was unusual.

      Just move to Panamá, Richard, and maybe you’ll change your expectation! 🙂 It’s a different world here.


  3. oldsalt1942

    There is always a band at the Jazz Funerals and you can see them in the background. But scattered throughout the crowd there are people who brought their own instruments and played along. That’s what was unusual.