Louisiana may get new motto, add ‘Southern Nights’ to list of state songs

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BATON ROUGE–Amid lifted mask mandates, businesses re-openings and a barrage of economic recovery proposals in the Legislature, Louisianans may soon find some new changes to the history of the state itself.

The House Judiciary Committee passed bills Thursday to establish a new state motto and to name “Southern Nights,” a song written by the late New Orleans music legend Allen Toussaint, as the fifth state song.

Two representatives proposed making the late New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” the fifth state song.

Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, brought up HB17, which proposes to change the state motto from “Union, Justice, Confidence,” to “We live and die for those we love.”

Nelson said there was never a statute passed to establish the old motto, and that it was time to make official something that hit closer to home for Louisiana residents.

“I think this motto is much more indicative of who we are as a people, what we believe and stand for as a people, and what sets us apart from everywhere else,” Nelson said.

Rep. Richard Nelson proposee to change the state motto from “Union, Justice, Confidence,” to “We live and die for those we love.

It was made clear that this was not a random phrase penned by Nelson either, as committee members pointed out that two iterations of the new motto appear on Louisiana law licenses and the walls of the Louisiana State Capitol.

The representative also said he felt the old motto of “Union, Justice, Confidence” was a “rip-off” of Georgia’s state motto, “Wisdom, Justice, & Moderation,” which was established in 1776 when Georgia became the 13th U.S. colony.

The proposal for the new motto passed by a vote of 10-2, with committee members adding that the new statute would not require any official state flags, buildings or seals to be corrected.

“We’re not going to tear up any carpets or tear up any flags,” Nelson said. “If we were going build a new state capitol, this motto would be on the building instead. When new flags are bought, they will have the new motto.”

Within the hour, Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, and Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, presented HB351 to add Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” to be a new state song.

Although the song was popularized by Glenn Campbell’s rendition in 1977, which reached number one in “Billboard’s” country, pop, and adult contemporary charts, Toussaint wrote the song and released it in his own album of the same name in 1975.

Grammy award-winning musician Terrance Simien joined the committee to express his support for Toussaint’s song and legacy.

“Allen Toussaint was a true Louisiana legend,” Simien said. “I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the music world, and this song would be a great addition to our state songs. Allen was not only a great artist but also a great human being. I just can’t say enough about him and just want to ask you to consider this.”

HB351 was passed by the committee with no objections, which opens up the possibility for the Legislature to make “Southern Nights” the fifth state song.

The list already includes “Give Me Louisiana” by Doralise Fontane, “You Are My Sunshine” by Jimmie Davis,” “State March Song” by Jimmie Davis and “Gifts of the Earth” by Frances LeBeau.

Toussaint is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.

Members of the Judiciary Committee, along with Simien, took time to praise the late New Orleans musician, who worked with artists like Erma Thomas, Elvis Costello, Professor Longhair and Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack Jr.

“Allen Toussaint really put our music on the map in a global way,” Willard said. “He’s one of the most renowned musicians that we have in the state.”

Toussaint was inspired to write “Southern Nights” while spending time way from New Orleans with his family in Houma. Those who sing Toussaint’s lyrics of the southern skies’ precious beauty and the weeping willows’ cries for joy may soon be singing the words of a new Louisiana state song.

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