A native and lifelong resident of Arnaudville, Louisiana, Debbie LaGrange has lived with Parkinson’s Disease since 1999 and been widowed for 14 years. She’d been an Operating Room nurse for most of her life, but as the disease progressed was no longer physically able to continue. It was while she was in the midst of exploring other means of raising money to pay for her in-home care that she had an epiphany:
“I was reading over a list of potential jobs, she said, “when one word stopped me dead in my tracks: ‘Songwriting’! I decided right then and there that I would learn how to write a great song. My dad left me with a love of words and music. My good friend told me I could do it!”
Her friend was right. With the unbound power of song inside her, she wrote her first song and was on her way. Inspired by her Louisiana love of Cajun music, she started her songwriting journey with “La chanson des moustiques” (“The Song of Mosquitos”), which she’s already recorded with the great Cajun musician Louis Michot and his Melody Makers.
That record will be released by Nouveau Electric Records on August 28. She’s now written a full album of songs, which is in the works.
Invited to share a list of her five favorites, Debbie gave us a listicle unlike any other. It starts with her fusion of two lists: Five Places I Should Have Been and Five Songs I’ll Always Sing.
1. “The Thrill Is Gone,” by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell.
A hit for Roy Hawkins in 1951 and B.B. King in 1970, it was recorded by many artists. This version of the song was filmed live at the June 26, 2010 Crossroads Guitar Center Concert at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. Had it not been for a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease I might’ve been at that magnificent event.
There’s a week’s worth of reasons why you should save this song to every one of your must-have high-tech, playback vices. I won’t say the obvious. Just know, it’s got cool all over it.
Here’s my other reason for storing it in my “go to” file:
“The Thrill Is Gone” is like a Swiss Army knife; trust it to get you through any situation that might present itself. Works great as a break-up song. It’s the perfect substitute for profanity. No need to get all down and dingy. Keep it clean and mean, it’s the ultimate put down!
Substitution List for “The Thrill Is Gone”:
– You decide
– Got that shirt
– The party’s over
– Elvis has left the building
– Dot gone
– I’m bored
– Kicked that habit
– Go home
– I’m outta here
Next time someone tries to play you dirty, spin your new and favorite ought-not-do-me-wrong song, “The Thrill Is Gone.”
2. “Hoochie Coochie Gal,” adapted by Etta James from “Hoochie Coochie Man” by Willie Dixon
Originally ” Hoochie Coochie Man” by Willie Dixon; the title revision was by Etta James when she recorded it in 1998 for her album Life, Love and The Blues. This is a video of a guitar jam that took place then. The session was filmed and later offered as an extra release to go along with the DVD documentary Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll.
All Etta had to do was swap gender lyrics and sing!
Why should I have been there? Who wouldn’t want to be in a living-room-sized arena, front and center, jamming with Chuck Berry, Etta James, Keith Richards, Robert Cray
Johnnie Johnson and even more talent?
Check your pulse if your answer is you! I’m there!
3. “Lucille” by Little Richard
“Lucille” was written and recorded in 1957 by Little Richard. But the version I love best is “Lucille” by Robert Blibo Walker, a self-proclaimed blues legend.
“When I was young,” he said, “I wanted people to be looking at me!” He decided to give his fans a platform to stand on. Robert Bilbo Walker built himself a stage in his locally-grown, hand-made home to his very own kinda blues roadhouse that he christened with the good news. He declared that “anything goes” at this hot spot that is close by, yet a far cry (and far enough away), from the Clarksdale rule zone!
So, make the mad-voodoo-magic, happy/sad, down/dirty, once in a lifetime, crossroad’s musical journey. Place yourself in a Clarksdale, Mississippi state of mind. have someone deliver you to a memorable kind of find!.
“You don’t see it until you see it.”
A jook joint
Owned and operated
by ROBERT BILBO WALKER
I live for the day that they find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. On that day I’ll be traveling toward Clarksdale, slipping my brand new blue’s shoes on my tap-happy dancing feet!
4. “You Should Be Dancing,” by the Bee Gees
It was written and recorded by The Bee Gees – Maurice, Robin and Barry Gibb – for Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta as Tony Manero. I was so sick with watching Saturday Night Fever. I practiced my rounds whenever I found some time. I twirled with too many Tony Maneros until the midnight clock chimed. I saved the money if ever I found a dime. I was coming to find him. He was supposed to be mine! When I heard the news I began to unwind! He was supposed to be mine!
It’s because of this song that, once in my life, I came to meet with the “green in the eye” lady.
I am thankful for countless gifts bestowed upon me during my life’s run, most important, contentment.
No matter what my lot is at any given time, hear what I say, I’ve stared many a mean enemy face to face in what felt like do or die, hand to hand contests, laced with severe physical and emotional stressors that daily challenged my desire to exists. Through it all I maintained my sanity and just enough wit to eek me thru the eye of the needle. No place for the faintly.
No, thankfully, I have not once wanted to exchange places with anyone, until that moment.
I read this somewhere: “We are the product of our raise.” Judging from what I’ve seen and what has been sworn to me, I know it can be done, but, I’m disabled to cipher the possibility that we can ever get over our sure and steady two step to the top or the slower paced sludge march till we drop.
The rhyme n soothing rhythm or the mixed up melody n missed steps stay with us to smooth our path or trip us up as we dance our way thru life’s strife and strains.
I stumbled, on that day. I heard that the Princess Di would dance with John Travolta at the White House! I was overcome with a jealous envy that was nowhere near pretty. I should’ve been there.
I later confessed my sin and did the penance. It was guilt, not sorrow or forgiveness for trespass that was my motive. Some way I’ll spin it different.
My desire to dance is my Devil.
That day I’ll prance again, I’ll sing until my end!
5. Blues de Bernadette by The Lost Bayou Ramblers
The Lost Bayou Ramblers are a band from South Louisiana that performs acoustic Cajun music. It was formed in 1999 by the fiddler Louis Michot and his brother Andre Michot, who plays lap-steel and accordion.
Where was I on September 3, 2014? I could have been Jammin in the Van. There are no excuses and no explanations as to why I wasn’t there on Freret St. in New Orleans, standing in front of Gasa Gasa with my nose pressed against the window of the jam in the van van where I would’ve had a clear, clean shot of seeing while listening to one of the most rousing pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Maybe next time!
Until then I’ll sing to Bernadette!
– Debbie LaGrange
July 18, 2020