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TELL IT LIKE IT IS Aaron Neville will be the featured performer at the Mayor’s Official Houston Holiday Celebration in the Bayou City December 6. His newest record, Believe, will be released in January.
What is the most dramatic change you have seen in music over the years?
I guess music has changed in every aspect. When I grew up, music was sort of innocent, you know, and now it has gone . . . I don’t know where it has gone.
Do you miss that innocence in music?
Oh, yeah. I still do some of it in my shows. I do doo-wop.
Do you sing in the shower?
What songs do you sing?
“Ave Maria,” “Mona Lisa.”
What groups do you listen to when you’re alone?
Doo-wop groups like the Spaniels, the Flamingos, and the Platters—and gospel.
Do you still sing any of the sixties songs produced by Allen Toussaint, like “Humdinger,” in concert?
No. It’s a different day now, you know? I sing what I’ve recorded lately, ballads, up-tempo stuff. “If I Had a Hammer” is going to be on the next gospel album. I do a little bit of everything. With the Neville Brothers, I do funk from New Orleans, and with the solo band, I do a medley of songs—”Stand By Me” and some doo-wop.
How closely do you pay attention to your songs on charts, album sales, that type of thing?
I usually get the Billboards when I have a record out and check on it. It’s just part of the business. I don’t let it wreck my life.
Were you teased for your voice when you were an adolescent?
No. Back in those days, the doo-wop groups looked for guys with a high voice. And I was big enough to handle myself.
Did you struggle with whether you were going to do commercials?
No, it’s cool.
Have you gotten much flack for the cotton ad?
Well, now, I have a story. I was at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, and Aretha Franklin got in her limo and I wanted to say something to her before she left. So I was walking toward the limo when she stopped and her bodyguard got out and said, ‘Ms. Franklin would like to say a few words to you.’ The window rolled down, and she put her shades down on her nose and said, ‘I love that cotton commercial.’ It was like a commercial itself. I thought that was pretty cool.
What song of somebody else’s do you wish you would have written?
Probably the best-selling record of all time, “White Christmas.” Yeah, that would have been nice.
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