In the darkest days of the pandemic, I found myself muttering under my breath, “I want to go home.” It was of course unattainable: my parents had been gone for decades and my childhood home long occupied by others. I have lived in this apartment for sixteen years, so wanting to “go home” was physically attainable and emotionally wavering. I am home. I was home. But not really. Home feels like a peaceful state of mind, somewhere you are safe and welcomed, perhaps even where someone makes a salad and asks if you would like some. In the midst of fear, grief, and uncertainty, “Home” still means to me a time and space where I don’t have to read the headlines in the morning and find out how many have died, been killed, are abused, are suffering.
So even before the pandemic, when the other person in the car asked me, “What’s your favorite song?” I said, “One?” and the first that came to mind was Louis’ THAT’S MY HOME. (Second place was IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON, which is revealing also.)
And in musical terms, HOME is one of those songs so ennobled by performances, live and recorded. The last time I saw Bobby Hackett, at a January 1976 concert tribute to Louis, it was that song he picked as his feature. I can hear and feel embraced by the performances of Jack Teagarden, Joe Thomas, Coleman Hawkins on a 1944 Keynote Records date.
But for me it all comes back to Louis. I first heard him sing and play HOME on a glorious, touching Verve session, backed by Russell Garcia, LOUIS UNDER THE STARS, and then the 1931 OKeh version. Louis makes me want to stand up and put my hand over my heart, an impulse I must stifle because people at adjacent tables might ask if I need the Heimlich maneuver, but this Louis-inflected reading of the song, by Bent Persson and the Hot Antic Jazz Band, led by Michel Bastide, has me in tears every time. Good tears, rich ones:
We owe deep thanks to musician and videographer Andreas Kågedal for preserving this beauty and sharing it. I apologize to him for not naming him at the start.
Wherever you are, may it be comfortable and haimisch — you don’t need a translation.
May your happiness increase!