‘‘The Good Times Are Killing Me’’

Do you ever wonder what is music? Who invented it and what for and all that? And why
hearing a certain song can make a whole entire time of your life suddenly rise up and stick
in your brain?—Lynda Barry, The Good Times Are Killing Me
This study began on the dance floor, with experiences of joy and pain.
The sources of joy shall become evident in the following pages—the
music, the movement, the musicians, the many friends and dance part-
ners with whom I have shared time and space on and o√ the dance floor.
The pain is from the loss of many of these same experiences and friends,
mostly due to di√erent sorts of distance and, early on, through death.
Whereas the joyful experiences exist as fond memories and still as ac-
tivities as near as the closest dance hall, I have come to understand that
the painful experiences—of loss of place, loss of friends and loved ones,
even loss of self—also must remain thriving at the very heart of Cajun
and Creole music. Indeed, the names of legendary musicians who have
passed on—tragically, like Amédé Ardoin, Iry LeJeune, Will Balfa, and
Rodney Balfa, and prematurely, like Dewey Balfa, Tommy Comeaux, and
Beau Jocque—hover above this musical expression as a reminder of just
how fleeting the joy of its experience can be. Zachary Richard sums up
the paradox of les bons temps, the good times that just keep on rolling, in
this way: ‘‘The basic contradiction of Cajun music . . . is that you have
songs which are about nothing but heartache, loneliness, loss—loss of
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