A Voice of the Angels
I just re-discovered one of my all time favorite singers, and I feel a cold place in my soul being warmed.
Aaron Neville was someone I listened to quite a bit when I was single. The album "Warm Your Heart" (because they were albums then) was one I could sing along with, and I mean every word.
Just yesterday, I came across "Bring it on Home...Soul Classics". Wow. Just wow. Every song a treasure. All the best, but with Aaron's very unique and warm sound. It comes highly recommended!
While perusing his other music, I came across some articles about his life, his Catholicism, his wife, and his loves.
This article from Crisis Magazine was written back in 2001. It tells the very interesting story of Aaron's life and career, and the faith that anchored him during his rough spots.
Here is a sample:
Then at 1:30 a.m., Aaron Neville, the centerpiece of the outfit—a mountain of a man, his arms and chest busting the bounds of a distressed jeans vest—puts down his tambourine and reaches for the microphone. The party atmosphere suddenly dissipates. He is a daunting figure, but those close enough to see his eyes find a gentleness, even a shyness, in them. He adjusts his earpiece, absently stroking the cross-like tattoo on his left cheek, and nods toward the band. Like a schoolboy singing for the first time before the class, Neville tentatively begins Amazing Grace. His fragile falsetto is barely audible after the pounding party music of the past hour. But the throng falls still. From the stage comes the voice of a battered angel: an ethereal sound with edges roughed by hell. As he reaches for the high notes, the muscle below his right eye twitches. Otherwise, there is no movement in the performance. None is necessary. The revelers are listening, perhaps for the first time this evening—listening and turning deep within. Past the booze, the weird hats, and the plastic beads, Aaron Neville has brought redemption into the room. Never mind that it wasn’t invited.
This article from Cultural Catholic was written much more recently, after the death of Aaron's wife earlier this year. When you read it, have a tissue handy because this is a love story that will make you cry.
Cyril Neville stepped up with a statement Aaron wrote as a raw expression of loss. To read it, Cyril said, "is one of the greatest honors I've had in my life."
With that, he channeled his brother's words:
"I remember the first kiss back in 1957, and I'll never forget our last kiss. I held her head in my hands and was as gentle as I could be. I kissed her eyes, her face, and her hands. I knew I was losing my best friend."
Cyril choked up, then continued through tears.
"She was everything a person could be to another. I still feel her lips on mine. I'll never get over losing her. But I know she's in a better place. She's gone home, and I'll see her again some day."
Aaron sat, head bowed. His sunglasses, removed earlier in the service, were back on.
The more I read of this couple, and the artist that is Aaron Neville, the more I am reminded of the story of Johnny Cash. I wrote a post on Johnny a while ago. The similarities are amazing. The poverty of youth, the dabbling with crime, the immersion into drugs, the saving love of a woman the the redemption through Faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. These men know beauty and love, and pain and despair, and joy and sorrow. To me, this typifies "artist".
All I know is that listening to both men's music is for me an encounter with God. Listening to them is, for me, a healing experience, and I am grateful.