Sixty years after he wrote it, Eddie DeLange�s song would grow in importance from a mere tune in every saloon singer�s repertoire to an anthem for a region. Where once the song might cause agreeable nods from listeners, six decades later it would draw tears. The song�s lyrics would be transposed from being part of a melodic rhyming pattern to a message with deep personal meaning. Yes, listeners would think to themselves wistfully, �we know what it means.�

STREETCARFrom the 1930s through the �40s, DeLange�s name was a respected one in American music. Born in Long Island, N.Y., in 1904, he grew up in a theatrical family. As an adult, he began his working career as a stuntman in the movies that were being churned out in Hollywood. Music was his passion though, so that in 1932 he returned to New York with a collection of over 100 songs he had written. He and music arranger Will Hudson (with whom he had coauthored the hit �Moonglow�) formed the Hudson-DeLange orchestra which played at dances throughout the northeast and the Midwest from 1935-�38. As a songwriter, DeLange was so successful that a web site dedicated to him claims that between 1937 and �39 there was at least one of his songs on radio�s �Hit Parade� every week except one.

After a brief stint with his own orchestra, DeLange, and his new wife Margo Lohden, moved to Hollywood, where he would spend full time writing music for movies. That was in 1944. He turned out songs that would be performed in films by Frank Sinatra, Parry Como, Harry James and … Louis Armstrong.

DeLange and fellow composer Louis Alter wrote a song for a 1947 film called New Orleans. As a story line the movie isn�t much � mostly a silly love story set around the closing of Storyville. The movie�s high point, and its link to immortality, is a song performed by blues singer Billie Holiday � who played a maid � to the accompaniment of Louis Armstrong � who played himself. In movie theaters around the country, the hauntingly beautiful lyrics echoed seemingly from off the screen.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day
I know I am not wrong … This feeling�s gettin� stronger
The longer I stay away.

Two songwriters in Hollywood could never imagine the emotion those words would have in the next century after August 2005.

Miss the moss covered vines … The tall sugar pines
Where mockin� birds used to sing
And I would like to see that lazy Mississippi
� Hurryin� into spring

Louis Armstrong�s rendition of the song would become the most popular, but many others including Harry Connick, Jr. Ricky Nelson, Fats Domino and Allsion Krauss would perform it. At Jazz Fest, it would become a must for practically every jazz band that plays there.

DeLange died at age 45 in 1949, so he never got to experience much of the song�s success. In the decade ahead, a new form of pop music called rock �n� roll would take the attention away from the tunes of the big band era.

Fortunately, quality has a way of enduring, as did the song. Today �Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans� is perceived as a love song to New Orleans although there is a twist in the closing lyrics.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
When that�s where you left your heart
And there�s one thing more … I miss the one I care for
More than I miss New Orleans

For the song to succeed we have to concede the rhyming of �Orleans� with �means� (After all, what rhymes what Or-lee-yuns as most of us pronounce it?) and we have to overlook the closing which puts the city in second place to a lost love.

Still, for all of those who over the past year have experienced what it means, the song is solace as though it was written for us. Thank you Eddie DeLange, and yes the feeling got stronger, the longer we stayed away.