Oh, When the Saints Fans Write Songs

18:00 July 22, 2015

I know one thing, / I gotta be one of the biggest Saints fans. / it’s like if they don’t win, / My week don’t go right. / And only a true fan would understand. – Intro to Dat Boi Pantha’s “Who Dat (Put Da Hurt ON ‘Em)”

We’re all in the Who Dat Nation. Now all we need is a national anthem. In the quest for our very own black and gold “Star Spangled Banner,” a number of local artists across all genres have risen to the occasion and produced easily more than 100 different Saints-themed songs throughout franchise history. Many of these have been recorded and released in the past few years as our fans, including our musicians, have been inspired by the team.

Celebration and praise in the form of song is no new facet of culture for the city of New Orleans, and songs about the Saints, as an integral part of local culture, are no exception. The first example is the New Orelans football franchise’s decision to name their team the Saints in the first place, which was based on the old jazz spiritual standard “When the Saints Go Marching In,” the song most commonly associated with the city and the announcement of which was made appropriately on All Saints Day, November 1, 1966. From the team’s very beginning, a well-known tune was part of its very fiber, a musical symbol of both the Saints and the city they would come to represent and one that would unite Saints fans with each other and their team for years to come.

Another well-known Saints-themed classic, Aaron Neville’s “Who Dat (History of the Saints)” (1987), features the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” plus interludes of the renowned “Who dat?” chant – an audio clup from the Saints offensive line, from back in the early days of former head coach Jim Mora (1986-96) and former quarterback, now WWL sports commentator, Bobby Hebert (1985-92).

Around that same time, Irma Thomas recorded “All the Way” (1988), and Harrison Avenue put out “I Believe (Saints All the Way)” (1987) – two other popular hymns found on Saints compilations and local sports bar jukeboxes to this day. All three of these Saints hits were released within a year of each other, coinciding with the Saints momentous 21st season in 1987. The ‘Aints motivated their fans to abandon the brown bags of seasons past with a 12-3 record-setting year, including the first postseason appearance in franchise history, and highlighted by a nine-game winning streak to wrap up the season. While, unfortunately losing the NFC wild card in a crushing 44-10 loss against the Minnesota Vikings, the Saints as a team and influential citywide entity had inspired more than just positive feedback from their fans – they had inspired fans to quite literally sing their praises.

The Saints franchise took on a whole new meaning for the city of New Orleans with their momentous return to the Superdome on September 25, 2006, over a year after the very building contained tens of thousands of people seeking refuge from the raging waters of Hurricane Katrina. What was already a monumental event for the city and its sports team would become one of the most memorable stars of a Saints game to this day: after shutting down Atlanta’s first possession of the game in four plays, safety Steve Gleason blocked the punt and cornerback Curtis Deloatch landed on the ball in the end zone for the first score in the Dome in nearly 21 months – one of the most dramatic moments in Saints history. Before our boys destroyed the Dirty Birds 23-3, the halftime show introduced another Saints anthem to national acclaim, U2 and “The Saints Are Coming,” performed onstage with a seven-piece featuring local artists Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty, and Big Sam. The song was originally recorded by Scottish punk band the Skids, from their 1978 debut album Scared to Dance. But the Saints fans – including those on the field surrounding the performers, those in the Dome from the sidelines to the nosebleeds, and those in front of television sets across the country – were not all scared to dance in celebration of such a historic victory. The anthem stuck, and can still be heard prior to the Saints’ run onto the field before every home game.

But there was another symbol of hope for the city born out of that game – the Saints’ new all-star quarterback, Drew Brees. And was he ever a fresh breeze for this famously flawed franchise. Brees threw for 4418 yards in regular season play that first year, the NFL-high for the season, and his impressive, four time Pro Bowl-worthy stats have, for the most part, steadily increased ever since. Like the Saints team as a whole, Brees has evolved in the eyes of New Orleanians as more than just a talented football player, but rather a symbol of rebirth, and of what kind of impact a fresh start and fresh perspective can have on an entire sports team, and an entire city. Brees himself is the subject of several of those Saints anthems.

Local rapper Dee1’s “Drew Brees” samples one of Brees well known pre-huddle call and response chants – “Who are we?” “Saints?” “Are we ready?” “Haoo!” – throughout the song, and also employs the catchy hook,  “Who dat? Drew Dat!”, another recenty popular saints slogan. The pre-huddle chants, led by Brees, are used in several of this year’s additions to the Saints repertoire, including local rappers MCJ’s “City of New Orleans,” Black Ca$h and Vankese’s “Hi-5 Saints Song,”  and Dappa’s “Win Again,” which actually uses the Saints count off chant – 1! 2! Win! 3! 4! Win! Some more!” – as part of the actual song lyrics as opposed to an audio clip sample.

Several of the Saints’ classic quips, phrases, and inside jokes have become fodder for local lyricists, including brown paper bags, famous local dishes, Buddy D dressing in drag when Saints make the Superbowl – the subject of Jep Epstein’s “Heaven’s Gonna Make the News” – and, of course, “Cha-Ching!” The most commonly used phrases are the “Who dat?” chant and Bobby Hebert’s coined term for the Saints fans, “Who Dat Nation,” used even in song titles by such artisuts as Abdul D Tentmaker and local hip hop artists AceLo, Arden Lo, J. John, and Trey Banks.

Our boys’ names have also lent a hand to local lyricists, because lets face it: Brees, Bush, Greer, Grant, Smith, Moore, Meachem, Shockey, Payton and so on are a bit easier to rhyme and rap/sing with than say, Fitzgerald, Edelman, McGahee, Ochocinco, Sanchez (except maybe, Flacco, Romo, and Vick, but let’s keep this family-friendly). Lines of Dappa’s “Win Again” illustrate this point – “We got Henderson, T. Porter, / Will Smith, Harper / Throw the rocket, you won’t, / but nowhere near Sharper / It’s hard for you to reach him, / It’s hard for you to reach him, / talkin’ bout Meachem, / I know Shockey got me, / and Colsten gon’ teach ‘em  / Fuita that’s my people, / Bell he never fail, / We Super Bowl-bound, / Ship about to set sail.”

Some of the most promising Saints anthems released successfully embrace both the elements from several other genres, including rock, jazz, brass bands, and hip hop beats. Hit collaborations from Shamarr Allen and Dee1, “Bring ‘Em to the Dome,” and Ceasar, Bizzy, and Dejavu, “My Town,” as well as Dat Boi Pantha’s “Who Dat (Put Da Hurt on ‘Em)” employ the harder, darker tones of rock and hip hop to send an intimidating message to opposing teams and fans, while Pinstripe Brass Band’s :Them Saints on a Roll” and Dem Boys “Roll with Black and Gold” take a more upbeat and danceable approach to getting Saints fans in the game-day groove.

While hip hop artists have generally dominated more recent additions to the anthology of Saints anthems, this collections is as much of a melting pot as the city this team as come to represent. Down’s “On March the Saints” and Supagroup’s “Back in the Game” both represent the metal and hard rock scenes – genres present but often forgotten in the birthplace of jazz. Sounds of the bayou and Cajun country are present in tunes such as Delicious Blues Stew’s “Superdome” and Layfayette’s Bayou Boys’ “The Saints Bandwagon.” The Lost Trailers, with their Saints version of “Holler Back,” and Dickie B. & the Topeka Street Ramblers’ “Somethin’ Geauxin’ On” show some Saints support from the country blues genre, while Williams Riley successfully ties classic rock to its country roots in his Saints single, “Black and Gold.”

While most of these Saints anthems have been originals from local artists, several musicians have chosen to reinterpret existing songs’ lyrics and embellish them with a little black and gold. The Monkees see a Saints-themed reprise with Weathered’s cover of “I’m a Believer,” renamed “Who Dat Fever.” Abdul D Tentamaker’s “Buddy D.’s Good” has the unique ability to aptly retain the original song’s first line in a Saints-flavored rendition of “Johnny B. Goode.” Local rock group One’s “Super Bowl Mambo” draws its inspiration from the iconic local standard, “Mardi Gras Mambo,” and the most recent Saints cover to hit Youtube early this January, “Party in the MIA,” was a remix of Miley Cyrus bubble-gum pop party anthem, “Party in the USA.”

Saints fans for years have hoped and prayed for game-time miracles and Christmastime, which falls near the end of the regular season, is no time for exceptions. Several of our locial artista have put these Christmas wishes to song, including Kermit Ruffins’ “A Saints Christmas” and Greg Barnhill and Will Robinson’s “All I Want for Christmas Is for the Saints to Win.” The most traditional-sounding of these three, “A Merry Who Dat Christmas,” sung by the Who Dat Children’s Choir, features several of the children’s own heart-warming, Saints wish one-liners on the bridge.

The trend here is clear: When our boys produce, so do our local musicians. And we an expect more to come – as if we’d forget just how easily “Super Bowl” rhymes with “Black and Gold.”

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