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Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans? Jazz Memories and American Myth in Spike Lee's When The Levee's Broke

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2012
JournalJazz Research Journal
Journal number2
Original languageEnglish


This essay analyses the significance of jazz in Spike Lee's 2006 film 'When the Levees Broke', which documents Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans and the Gulf States more generally. Jazz has always played an important role in Lee's films, and in this case, he used the opportunity to make a film about the devastation of New Orleans to explore the meaning of jazz in American culture, and particularly its relationship to issues of cultural origins and community identity. Through his references to jazz's everyday meaning and practice, Lee's film creates a powerful narrative of individual and collective renewal and rebirth that is consistent with, and indeed, dependent on, mobilizing longstanding mythic themes in American culture.