While New Orleans struggles to overcome the tragic effects of Hurricane Katrina, one wonders if we’ll ever hear the joyous sounds of Mardi Gras again. The new documentary Make It Funky! (opening today in select cities) presents a history of the town and the music born in its streets. Filmmaker (and N'Awlins native) Michael Murphy chatted with TVGuide.com about the sounds of the Big Easy and why he knows his city will rise again.
TVGuide.com: What makes the music of New Orleans so special?
Michael Murphy: Well, everyone knows New Orleans for its jazz, but it has 200 years of rich musical influences: rhythm and blues, blues, Mardi Gras Indians, marching brass bands.... It really makes for a great gumbo of traditions. It also has a uniquely funky beat.
TVGuide.com: A lot of people were worried about Fats Domino after Katrina. You must have been happy to see the singer eventually turn up alive and well.
Murphy: Oh, yeah, Fats is a legend, and really helped to create rock and roll — I think his record sales are close to that of Elvis. He’s just a beloved icon, and the whole city was worried about him because his roots in New Orleans are as deep as the Mississippi. Fats just didn’t want to leave his home. He was a happy man with his red beans and rice, and his piano.
TVGuide.com: Make It Funky! features another legendary act, the Neville Brothers. Why are they so identified with the New Orleans music scene?
Murphy: Each Neville brother has his own unique, and very different, musical influences, but the love of these brothers overcomes any differences in style when they get together to record. That kind of coming together and family tradition is part of New Orleans music — and exemplified by the Neville Brothers.
TVGuide.com: Will New Orleans be back?
Murphy: It's been a very tough time and kind of a emotional roller coaster for me with all the tearing apart of the city that is happening right now. But the spirit and love of life that allowed New Orleans to emerge from basically a swampland will get them through — and music will be a big part of that.