New Orleans Is Sinking

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"New Orleans Is Sinking"
Single by The Tragically Hip
from the album Up to Here
Released 1989
Genre Rock, Blues-rock
Length 4:17
Label MCA
Writer(s) The Tragically Hip
Producer(s) Don Smith
The Tragically Hip singles chronology
"Blow at High Dough"
"New Orleans Is Sinking"
"Boots or Hearts"

"New Orleans Is Sinking" is the second single released by The Tragically Hip from the band's second studio album, Up to Here. The song reached #1 on the RPM Canadian Content chart.[1] The song has since become one of the band's signature songs and still receives consistent radio airplay. In 2008, the song was ranked #24 on a CFNY-FM (102.1 "The Edge") list of the Top 200 New Rock Songs of All Time;[2] in 2005, it was named the 16th greatest Canadian song of all time on the CBC Radio One series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version.

Live "workshop"[edit]

When performed live, the middle section of the song is typically given over to an extended jam in which lead singer Gordon Downie performs a story or another song. The most famous such version, subtitled "Killer Whale Tank", appeared as a B-side on the band's 1991 CD single for "Long Time Running"; in it, Downie improvises an extended story about working as a cleaner in the killer whale tank at an aquarium.[3] In another well-known version which has been widely circulated as a live bootleg, Downie performs Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight";[3] in the version which appears on the band's 1997 live album Live Between Us, he performs David Bowie's "China Girl" and The Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby".

This tradition has also been used by Downie as a "workshop" to test out and develop new Tragically Hip songs which have not yet been recorded; several of the band's later singles, including "Nautical Disaster" and "Ahead by a Century", began as bridge jams during live performances of "New Orleans Is Sinking".[3]

Hurricane Katrina[edit]

In October 2005, several radio stations, including CKQB-FM and CHEZ-FM, temporarily stopped playing the song out of sensitivity to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated the city of New Orleans in early September of that year.[4][5][6][7]

This song has been used to protest the idea of building cities below sea level, which was a major factor in the devastation the hurricane caused in New Orleans.


Chart (1989/1990) Peak
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[8] 70
RPM Canadian Content Chart[1] 1
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks[9] 30


  1. ^ a b "Canadian Content (Cancon) - Volume 51, No. 3, November 18, 1989". RPM. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  2. ^ "Top 102 New Rock Songs of All Time". August 31, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider, Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance 1985-1995. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-992-9.
  4. ^ MacDougall, David (2005-08-31). "Ottawa Radio Stations Pull Hip Song After Hurricane Tragedy". Chart. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  5. ^ Armstrong, Denis. "Storm sinks Tragically Hip classic". Jam!. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  6. ^ The Coast - (The Tragically Hip) lost a ton of royalty money when radio stations pulled...
  7. ^ Archive News, Glasgow Caledonian University - Tragically Hip song pulled from playlists
  8. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 51, No. 8, December 23, 1989". RPM. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  9. ^ "The Tragically Hip - Billboard Singles". allmusic. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 

External links[edit]