By the Way

The 13 Mardi Gras songs you can’t live without — and ‘Cupid Shuffle’

William Faucett of Bay St. Louis and his daughter, Jade, 2, call for throws during the Krewe of Nereids Mardi Gras parade in Waveland on Sunday Jan. 31, 2016
William Faucett of Bay St. Louis and his daughter, Jade, 2, call for throws during the Krewe of Nereids Mardi Gras parade in Waveland on Sunday Jan. 31, 2016 File

The 12th Day of Christmas has come and gone and it’s now officially the beginning of Carnival season.

There will be plenty of partying and parades between now and March 1, when ashes are rubbed on foreheads and Lent begins. Music has always played a huge role in Mardi Gras activities.

Here are the songs you’ll want to have on your playlist for your Mardi Gras festivities. And, yes, “Cupid Shuffle” is on this list because it’s basically a law that if you ride on a float on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you have to do the “Cupid Shuffle.”

“Hey Pocky A-Way”

The Meters

Get your Mardi Gras started right with this infectious groove from the Kings of Funk.

“Take Me to The Mardi Gras”

Paul Simon

This track was cut in Muscle Shoals and features the world-famous Swampers. It proves that everyone wants to let go of their burdens and go to a Mardi Gras parade. And did we mention that’s David Hood on bass, Jimmy Johnson on guitar and Roger Hawkins on drums? It’s a groove worthy of any Staples Singers song.

“St. James Infirmary Blues”

The White Stripes

Jack and Meg White recorded a version of the New Orleans classic for their debut album. It will get any party hopping.

“Southern Nights”

Allen Toussaint

Sure, the Glen Campbell version was a bigger hit, but the late Allen Toussaint, the patriarch of New Orleans music, created a dreamy bit of Southern psychedelia that captures all that is magical about nights in New Orleans and Louisiana.

“Carnival Time”

Galactic and Al Johnson

“Carnival Time” by Al Johnson is the them song for Mardi Gras. On this version, Johnson teams with Galactic and the torch is carried for New Orleans funk.

“My Girl Josephine”

Fats Domino

An often overlooked song by New Orleans ambassador Fats Domino, this one is guaranteed to get everyone up dancing at your Mardi Gras shindig.

“Meet De Boys on The Battlefront”

Wild Tchoupitoulas

The Tchoupitoulas Indians are backed by The Meters and the Neville Brothers. This is as “Mardi Gras” as it gets, folks.

“Brother John/Iko Iko”

The Neville Brothers

New Orleans’ “first family of funk” take on two Mardi Gras classics, featuring tenor harmony vocals from Aaron Neville.

“Quitters Never Win”

Dr. John

From “Destively Bonnaroo,” for which the festival was named, this is straight up New Orleans funk that features The Meters as Dr. John’s backing band. The Meters also served as the backing band on the hit “Right Place Wrong Time.” This is the track that’s going to get your party “turnt up.” Trust me.

“Hey Hey”

Bo Dollis

The Wild Magnolias’ Big Chief serves some Afro-Cuban funk just in time for Mardi Gras.

“Cupid Shuffle”


No Mardi Gras is complete without this line-dance jam from Lafayette, Louisiana’s, Cupid. Even Nick Saban likes to get down to the “Cupid Shuffle.”

“Basin Street Blues”

Henry Butler

Butler plays the classic live at a PiaNOLA show and the results are fantastic.

“Big Chief”

Professor Longhair

This version is from “Crawfish Fiesta,” Fess’ last album before his death in 1980.

“Mardi Gras Mambo”

The Meters

Originally covered by The Hawkettes with Art Neville, Neville recreates the song on the great Meters album “Fire on The Bayou.”

Bonus: “Something You Got”

Harry Connick Jr.

I don’t normally think of Harry Connick Jr. when I think of Mardi Gras. He falls into my “handsome piano players” file. But under extreme pressure from my editor Kate Magandy (”How can you have a Mardi Gras playlist without Harry Connick Jr.?”) Mr. Connick has been added.