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Why We Love the Song "Louise"

Why We Love the Song “Louise”

RedRoom has asked us to blog about our favorite song, and I can’t help but write about the disciplined poetry of Paul Siebel’s ballad, “Louise,” the song every blues singer likes to cover.  Although the song is traditionally written up as two ten-line stanzas, both break down perfectly into two quatrains and a pulling-away couplet.

The first quatrain is objective, almost distant:

Well they all said Louise was not half bad
It was written on the walls and window shades
And how she'd act the little girl
A deceiver, don't believe her that's her trade

The second quatrain describes her gentlemen callers:

Sometimes a bottle of perfume,
Flowers and maybe some lace
Men brought Louise ten cent trinkets
Their intentions were easily traced

The first stanza ends with a couplet that pulls the listener away from the pathos:

Yes and everybody knew at times she cried
But women like Louise they get by

Except for the past-tense of the fist stanza  Siebels doesn’t give any hint of Louise’s death until the between-stanza guitar riff.   As the second stanza starts, the listener kind of gets sucker-punched, especially the way this quatrain is crafted to lull the reader until the gravitas is underscored in the quatrain’s last line:

Well everybody thought it kind of sad
When they found Louise in her room
They'd always put her down below their kind
Still some cried when she died this afternoon

For me, the last line of the stanza above is when the tragedy of Louise’s life hits.  The elegiac next quatrain brings Louise home:

Louise rode home on the mail train
Somewhere to the south I heard it said
Too bad it ended so ugly,
Too bad she had to go this way

The ten lines are once again finished with a couplet that pulls the listener away, this time for good.

Ah but the wind is blowing cold tonight
So good night Louise, good night