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Category Archives: aaron neville

Louisiana 1927 & 2011

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Randy Newman’s Louisiana 1927 became a familiar anthem for New Orleans and was performed regularly by various artists at various benefits and performances. For a few years, the song couldn’t be performed without producing teary eyes throughout the audience.

While the song talks about flooding, it’s a bit ironic that it became an anthem for the City of New Orleans. You see, in 1927 levees south of New Orleans were actually blown up to divert flood waters AWAY from and out of the “bowl” known as New Orleans where the levees were being pressured from 14 inches of rain inside of New Orleans and the swollen Mississippi River on the outside of the levees.

What resulted was The Great Flood of 1927, an event that was to paralyze the Deep South for nearly six months and leave nearly 1,000,000 people (mostly poor farmers) homeless and penniless just before The Great Depression would deliver a similar blow to other areas of the country.

My father was a year old when “the flood” created tent cities throughout South Louisiana. My grandmothers referred regularly to the flood mostly in terms of before and after. There was a certain disdain for the “city folk” of Baton Rouge and New Orleans who were saved and protected while the poor Cajun farmers were sacrificed. It took decades to recover.

I was nine years old in 1973 when flooding that year caused the new Morganza Spillway to be opened, again flooding millions of acres of “country” land. While the spillways relieve pressure on the levee system and save the cities, they are the equivalent of blowing up the levees in 1927. Today, May 14th, the Morganza Spillway was once again opened to relieve the levee system. Evacuations have started and the wait begins…

Say a prayer or two for the people of South Louisiana. This is what they face in the coming weeks…

After Katrina, then the Oil Spill, and now an epic flood it’s getting harder and harder to keep getting up after the body blows. But, somehow I know that the enduring spirit of the Cajun spirit will prevail….yet again.

For now, all I can do is listen to my favorite rendition of the ode to that great flood over 80 years ago and pray that they actually don’t “wash us away”.

 
 

Jazz Fest, Part Deux

So, this weekend is the final weekend of JazzFest in New Orleans. As I related in last week’s post, the schedule is jam-packed with talent. On Thursday, we missed Tower of Power, Betty LaVette, Ruby Wilson, and Widespread Panic, not to mention Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys…and I imagine the hit of the night was Randy Newman’s Louisiana 1927.

Friday’s star-studded line-up includes: Brett Dennen, the incomparable John Prine, family favorite Theryl “The Houseman” deClouet and the great Little Stevie Wonder.

Livin’ for the City

On Saturday, the A T & T Blue Room will be broadcasting live from Jazz Fest. I watched it last year and it was a blast. If you’re looking for a little virtual entertainment this weekend, tune into The Blue Room. You might catch the Marcia Ball, Diana Krall, MM favorite Geno Delafose, Aaron Neville in the Gospel Tent, and the piece de resistance….the one, the only….Jimmy Buffett. Naturally, there will be thousands of Parrotheads rockin’ and a reelin’ to the consummate Gulf Coast Boy.

Margaritaville

Jazz Fest winds up on Sunday with Sonny Landreth, The Radiators, The Raconteurs, Keb Mo, and closes out with the Derek Trucks Band and the hometown reunion of The Neville Brothers.

Big Chief

I’m off to Philadelphia, MS for a little R&R, so have a great weekend and catch the The Blue Room broadcast, if you can.

Peace out.

 

Jazz Fest Opens Today!

The 39th Annual Jazz Fest opens today to gorgeous skies and springtime excitement in New Orleans. If you ever get the chance to attend one of the weekends of Jazz Fest, do it. There’s no better time in New Orleans. It’s generally a time of joie de vivre, but this year seems particularly special as many New Orleans residents, like Aaron Neville, are finally home and the debacle of Katrina is ebbing some. The Spring continues to bring new growth in flora and fauna, as well as re-built homes and lives with more people and businesses popping up all over the place.

Here’s a sampling of today’s performers….

Gone, Gone, Gone — Robert Plant & Allison Krause

featuring T-Bone Burnett

Earlier Bagdad

Drunken Angel, Susan Cowsill Band

Kim Carson

Angel from Montgomery, Theresa Andersson Group

and the star attraction for tonight’s set, Sheryl Crow (with a nice little NOLA homage):

Love is Free

and on the other stages, a few MM favorites….

The Iguanas

The Zydepunks

Doyle Bramhall, featuring C.C. Adcock (a Lafayette boy):

C. C. Adcock

Ellis Marsalis

Buckwheat Zydeco

Bruce Daigrepont (a great profile that gives you the essence of a Cajun)

Tab Benoit

Terrence Simien (another great Cajun example)

Of course, there is always great Gospel, as well:

Paul Porter & The Christianaires

Should be a great weekend for sun and fun in The Big Easy. Next weekend, AT&T will carry portions of Jazz Fest Live at The Blue Room, so check it out.

 

Bring It On Home, Aaron Neville

His long self-imposed exile is over.

Aaron Neville shared with the New Orleans’ Times-Picayune that he is in the process of moving back to the New Orleans area. As I highlighted as part of the Aaron Neville-a-thon late last year, Aaron lost his home during Hurricane Katrina and his wife of 48 years died of cancer in January of 2007. While he says that New Orleans proper still holds too many memories of his dear wife, Covington is just close enough to get there when need be. And, it’s on higher ground.

Welcome back to the Gulf Coast, Mr. Neville….just in time for JazzFest. :)

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2008 in aaron neville, Festivals, Louisiana

 

An Aaron Neville Christmas

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While I wish the secret Santa would have been Van the Man, we got the next best thing. One of my favorites…

Aaron Neville. Joined by his little big brother, Charles and his Quintet. At the beautiful Saenger Theatre in Mobile, Alabama.

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We were on the third row just right of center in a full house. The opening act was a local public high school choir, LeFlore Preparatory.

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They were very good and quite moving. Their opening number was a very spirited African song that really set the positive tone of the evening.

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They featured several solos that were all simply lovely. It was really quite inspiring to watch these enthusiastic, young people obviously committed to music.

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After an hour, the announcer came out and welcomed Aaron Neville. Now, Aaron is a literal mountain of a man. At 66, he is buff and looks a full 25 years younger.

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He opened with I Don’t Know Much and thanked his duet partner on that song, Linda Ronstadt, at its conclusion. Next came Stand By Me and Ain’t No Sunshine. In doing a little pre-concert research, I found out that these two songs, in particular had become special prayers for Aaron Neville.

Our local paper had a write up on the Aaron Neville concert on Friday. In that article, Aaron stated that this mini-tour was helping him get over the loss of his wife of 48 years to lung cancer last January. I had no idea.

Aaron Neville married Joel Roux (pronounced Jo-el) in 1959 when she was 18 and he was 17. His mother actually signed their marriage license because he was not of legal age. Through substance abuse, a prison stint, a rollercoaster career and four children, Joel was his best friend. He credits her with saving his life by throwing him out in the early years of their marriage and calls her his backbone. Dedicated Catholics, they both credited prayer and St. Jude with saving Aaron and turning their lives around.

Their life was anything but easy. Even after his 1966 hit, Tell It Like It Is, wealth and fame were illusive. Aaron supported his family by working the docks at the Port of New Orleans. Eventually, he started a band with his brothers and concentrated on the funky, back beat music of the Mardi Gras Indians, which is part of his heritage. His Warm Your Heart album was wildly successful as a solo effort and life got a lot easier for the Neville family.

Joel finally retired from her 20-year career at Charity Hospital of New Orleans and joined Aaron as informal Ambassadors for New Orleans and found a special place in the music industry with the fabulous rhythms of the Neville family, including The Meters, the Wild Tchoupitoulas, and of course, The Neville Brothers Band. All was really good until 2004, when Joel was diagnosed with lung cancer. Through prayer, radiation and chemotherapy, she went into remission. And then…Hurricane Katrina.

Aaron and Joel Neville lost their home and all of their possessions, as did many of their family. Aaron was in New York, on tour, when Katrina hit and has gone to New Orleans only once since the storm — to bury his dear wife. He has an asthma condition now that he feels would be exacerbated by living in New Orleans and the unknown environmental hazards that may be lurking. He also didn’t want to risk Joel’s fragile health by being in such a risky environment. However, he never abandoned New Orleans and has done dozens of benefit concerts to raise money for musicians and the people of the city, at large.

In November, the Nevilles announced that they will be back to play the 2008 JazzFest in April. It is a long awaited return that many residents view as a milestone in the recovery. It should be quite a joyous occasion, however I’m sure that for Aaron it will provide a stinging reminder of loss and what is missing. Great and enduring loves — particularly those who overcome adversity and trials — generally leave a gaping void when one is gone and the other is left to carry on.

While it was thrilling to see Aaron Neville on Sunday night, there was a certain pall and sadness to him. In particular, when he sang Amazing Grace….

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Now, Aaron makes no bones about his faith. He’s Catholic to the core. He’s tatted up with crucifixes (including one on his cheek) and the face of Jesus on his huge bicep. He wears a St. Jude medal for an earring as a simple reminder of how a “hopeless case” can be redeemed.

I know the feeling.

However, my symbol is a little bigger and has more attitude. He had on a crucifix necklace as well as a rosary and an Our Lady of Guadalupe t-shirt. Being Catholic ourselves, we totally get Big Aaron. He’s thankful to God for saving his life and uses these outward symbols to proclaim his love of Christ to the world…and to maybe influence others in need. Perhaps that’s why is his music is so particularly lovely.

He sang for over two hours and didn’t clutter the performance with much chatter at all. He just really went to work and gave us great music. A few of the highlights:

Tell It Like It Is

It’s Alright

Please Come Home for Christmas

Silent Night

A Change Gonna Come

O Holy Night

Here are a few pictures I took from the show:

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After the show, Big Mike, the keyboardist was out at the front of the stage talking to folks. Mr. D. had bought a fleur de lis Aaron Neville hat before the concert to support New Orleans and the re-building (because we’re loyal like dat) and we asked Mike if he could get Aaron to sign it. He said sure and got Jason the Roadie to go back stage. Within two minutes, we had our keepsake.

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