The essence of John Schwegmann’s warrior nature is best expressed through music. Consider how lyrics from four songs composed in his heyday so perfectly mirror his fighting spirit.
“Indian Red,” based on a traditional Mardi Gras Indian chant, is all about self-assertion and proud defiance. First recorded by New Orleans jazz legend Danny Barker in the late 1940s, the song announces in a powerful chorus: “We won’t bow down/Not on anybody’s ground.” Surely John was channeling this defiant Crescent City spirit in his fight against the leading manufacturers of his day.
Schwegmann was a big Broadway musical buff. So it is only fitting that his quixotic political career can be summed up in lyrics from “The Impossible Dream”—the hit song from “Man of La Mancha” (1965). Here the noble but befuddled hero declares his intent “To fight the unbeatable foe” and “To march into hell for a heavenly cause.”
In 1969, a song penned by Paul Anka for Frank Sinatra commenced its journey into pop music immortality. The song, “My Way,” conjured the spirit of an unrepentant hero justifying his life-choices at the end of a fabulous but fiery career. One line in particular from “My Way” expresses Schwegmann’s eternal unwavering commitment to truth-telling: “To say the things he truly feels/And not the words of one who kneels.”
Bypassing all these lyrical allusions was a song composed specifically in support of Schwegmann’s 1971 gubernatorial run. Written and performed by Curley Langley, a popular New Orleans’ country/rockabilly bandleader of the time, this catchy ditty completely captures the warrior nature of “the people’s grocer."