“Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” by The Carpenters

Jambalaya, as some readers would already know, is actually a dish which is indigenous, if you will, to the Creole/Cajun people of Louisiana. One of the things that makes said group different from average Americans is that they have their own unique way of talking. For the sake of simplicity the said way of speaking can be called pidgin English.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Carpenters's Jambalaya (On The Bayou) at Lyrics.org.

The song “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” as originally rendered by Hank Williams (who himself was from nearby Alabama) contain lyrics embedded with such style of speaking.

However, The Carpenters’ version is less dependent on those gimmicks. Furthermore, it is also more abbreviated than the original, thus also making it more readily discernible. 

The Lyrics

The subject of the first verse is one “Joe”, who is using a small boat known as “pirogue” to visit his girlfriend, “Yvonne”. In the original, the vocalist is the one who is dating Yvonne, and the two of them proceed to get married in the second verse. 

But in The Carpenters’ rendition, the lyrics are relayed from a third-person perspective. Furthermore, the second verse doesn’t really allude to romance. Instead what’s being more directly implied is that there’s some type of party going on. At the party, for whatever reason, Yvonne is at the center of the attention of the “kinfolk” who are attending.

The third verse then goes back directly to the relationship between Joe and Yvonne. Here, Joe is depicted as being thoroughly smitten. He is smitten that he is willing to sell his things in order to buy his sweetheart “what she need-o”. 

Meanwhile, what the “jambalaya” represents, most simply put, is his intent to have a party when he meets up with Yvonne on this particular night, where the two of them will proceed to “have big fun on the bayou”. Bayou is basically another word for a river. Such terminology, such as the word jambalaya, is meant to point to the idea that this narrative is indeed set in Cajun country, i.e. Louisiana. 

And as inferred in the second verse, this may in fact be a gathering in which other people are involved. But in any event, he’s apparently packing his own guitar in the name of them enjoying some music nonetheless.

In Conclusion

So perhaps the easiest way of describing The Carpenters’ version of “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” is as an abbreviation of the original. The omissions/changes are not plenty but are significant. For as originally rendered, it can be ascertained that the vocalist wants to settle down with Yvonne. But in The Carpenters’ case, it is rather Joe who is in a relationship with her. And despite him clearly being in love, their romance reads more as if it is in its dating stage.

Carpenters, "Jambalaya (On The Bayou)" Lyrics

Facts about “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)”

This song was actually written by Hank Williams (1923-1953). The country music legend, Hank, originally released it in 1952.

A number of artists have covered “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” throughout the years, including:

  • Fats Domino (1961)
  • John Fogerty (1973)
  • Harry Connick Jr. (2007)

The Carpenters’ version came out on 1 May 1973. It is one of the tracks on their album “Now & Then”. Their cover stands as one of the most-successful of the lot. For instance, it actually soared to number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. And to note, “Now & Then” itself ranks amongst the duo’s most-triumphant projects. For instance, it is their only studio album to break the top 10 of both the Billboard 200 and UK Albums Chart.

The Carpenters, aka Richard Carpenter and his sister Karen Carpenter (1950-1983), produced this track, which was released through A&M Records, themselves.

Jambalaya (On The Bayou)

More about “Now & Then”

“Now & Then” is an album by American pop duo, Carpenters. The group, made up of siblings, Karen Anne Carpenter and Richard Carpenter, had the album released on May 1 of 1973.

The album was recorded at the A&M Studios, La Brea Avenue, Hollywood. The duo has been credited with its production while the record label, A&M Records performed the task of launching and promoting it.

“Now & Then” had the three minutes and twenty second long hit single, “Sing”, listed as its first track. The song was released as the first of three singles from the album. 

“Now & Then” was a commercial success. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 as well as the OCC in the UK. It reached No. 1 in Japan, No. 2 in Canada, No. 3 in Australia and No. 2 in the Netherlands. The RIAA in the United States Certified the album double platinum while the United Kingdom’s BPI and the NVPI of the Netherlands certified it gold and platinum respectively.

2 Responses

  1. João Cecilio says:

    Forgot Brenda Lee?

  2. Beenish from Karachi, Pakistan says:

    Thank you for the explanation. It was very helpful, indeed!

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