Things to Know About Aaron Neville
With his silky vocals and classic songs, Aaron Neville has been thrilling R&B fans for more than 50 years. From his early career in New Orleans to the top of the pop charts with Linda Ronstadt, he’s done it all. On April 9, the 75-year-old soul man will headline the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in St. Petersburg. In honor of this occasion, here are five things to know about Aaron Neville.
- He had his first hit 50 years ago.
Neville recorded the sweet soul classic “Tell It Like It Is” in New Orleans in 1966. Although he’d already been recording and releasing singles since 1960, none of his other songs had received airplay outside of NOLA. “Tell It Like It Is” became a huge national hit, eventually reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and launching a career that has lasted half a century.
- He and his brothers were an institution in New Orleans.
Neville often performed with his brothers, Art, Charles, and Cyril, as the Neville Brothers. Besides having a hit recording career in their own right, the brothers became an institution in their hometown of New Orleans, closing out the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival nearly every year and becoming known as the first family of New Orleans music.
- He found big success by teaming up with Linda Ronstadt.
In 1989, Neville found himself on top of the pop charts when he recorded a series of duets with megastar Linda Ronstadt. She included four duets with Neville on her album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind, with “I Don’t Know Much” and “All My Life” reaching the Billboard top 10. The boost in attention helped his subsequent solo singles, including a cover of “Everybody Plays the Fool,” climb the charts.
- He’s known almost as much for his appearance as his voice.
With his hulking physique and prominent tattoos, Neville’s look belies his smooth falsetto. But the tattoos date back farther than his singing career—including the dagger tattooed on his face, which had to be airbrushed out of his early publicity photos for “Tell It Like It Is.”
- He gives credit for his success to St. Jude.
A devout Catholic, Neville has been especially devoted to St. Jude, to whom he says he owes his success and his survival. Overcoming a rough childhood in New Orleans and serving jail time for stealing cars, Neville straightened himself out by singing and praying. He wears the medal of St. Jude as an earring, to remind him of his debt.
Jessica Wheeler is the music columnist for AliveTampaBay.