"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. 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; in 2005, it was named the 16th greatest Canadian song of all time on the CBC Radio One series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version.
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. In another well-known version which has been widely circulated as a live bootleg, Downie performs Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight"; 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".