Inquiring Minds: Talking Christmas Music With Aaron Neville
Even for a stone-cold atheist (which Rocks Off is not), listening to Aaron Neville sing "O Holy Night" has to be one of the true pleasures of the Western world. The best-known voice of New Orleans' No. 1 soul-funk family dynasty thanks to songs like "Tell It Like It Is" and Linda Ronstadt duet "Don't Know Much," Neville's near-operatic tenor and heart-stopping falsetto can tackle anything from country to classical, but he definitely hits a different gear when baby, it's cold outside. Neville, 68, has released two Christmas albums, 1993's Aaron Neville's Soulful Christmas and 2005's Christmas Prayer, and has three songs - including this one,
- alongside Ray Charles, the Beach Boys and the Salvation Army Brass Ensemble on the brand-new The Weather Channel Holiday Party compilation. Rocks Off quizzed Neville, who serenades House of Blues this evening (with brother Charles in tow), about Christmas music and a few other things as he was relaxing before a show in Bartlesville, Okla., earlier this week. Rocks Off: Which Christmas songs mean the most to you? Aaron Neville: Traditional stuff like "Silent Night" - we do a good harmony thing on that, my bass player and my drummer. I like "The Christmas Song" and the stuff I did by Charles Brown, "Please Come Home for Christmas" and "Merry Christmas Baby." I have a CD called Christmas Prayer, I love that one. I do "White Christmas" - I did it slow on Aaron Neville's Soulful Christmas and I did it up-tempo like Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters did it on Christmas Prayer. RO: Which Christmas songs can you live without? AN: I don't even think about it like that. I don't sing all of 'em. I do "O Holy Night" and "The Christmas Song," "Mary's Boy Child" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Let It Snow." That's about it.
RO: What's your favorite Christmas song to sing? AN: Probably "Silent Night." RO: Any particular reason? AN: It's the traditional Christmas song, really. I think it is. RO: What's the most recently written Christmas song you would consider a real classic? AN: You know, I don't really get into 'em that much. I couldn't say. I don't know any traditional songs that were recently written. RO: In the '40s, '50s and '60s, there seemed to be a lot of great Christmas songs coming out of pop and R&B, but not so much since. Why do you think that is? AN: Maybe people aren't inspired. I don't know. It's an inspirational thing, the way I see it. RO: There must be some interesting Christmas customs and traditions down in New Orleans. Can you tell us a few? AN: I don't understand what you mean. RO: Well, just...
AN: New Orleans is just like anybody else. They don't do nothing no different than nobody else that I know of. People celebrate Christmas, they visit friends and family's homes, you know - Christmas dinner, that's about it. RO: Are there any songs that are especially popular around Christmas in New Orleans that would be unique to the city? AN: Maybe something Satchmo [Louis Armstrong] did back in the day. Satchmo had some cool Christmas songs out, like one called "Zat You Santa Claus?" He's definitely New Orleans. RO: Just in general, how are things down there these days? AN: It's coming along, slowly, but it's moving. People are building back up. A lot of places won't ever come back up, but it's making a lot of movement forward. 7 p.m. tonight at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837 or www.hob.com/houston.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.