The Cultural Trajectory of Dr. John’s ‘I Walk on Gilded Splinters’
Keywords:Dr. John, ‘I Walk on Gilded Splinters’, Mac Rebennack, New Orleans, New Orleans creole culture, voodoo
This article traces the manner in which a particular composition steeped in New Orleans’ creole culture (and in voodoo, in particular)—Dr. John’s ‘I Walk on Gilded Splinters’—has undergone a series of transitions since its original recording in 1967. The article commences with a discussion of the song, related repertoire and Dr. John’s creative persona with regard to the composer’s New Orleans heritage. Subsequent sections provide an account of the manner in which the composition has become established within a number of soul/rock/pop genres, and identify those elements that have been core to its successive modifications. Moving to a more contemporary focus, the article identifies the manner in which Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Dr. John’s particular reactions to it revived and re-inflected his creative persona. The conclusion reflects on the significance of the composition’s cultural trajectory over 50 years of performance and of the shifting nature of the composer’s presentation of his material for different audiences.
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