Aaron Neville (born January 24, 1941 in New Orleans, Louisiana) is an American soul and R&B singer. Aaron is the third of the four famous Neville Brothers (Aaron, Charles, Cyril and Art Neville) of New Orleans. A product of that city's richly complex musical culture, his first vocal model was older brother Art, keyboardist and founder of the Meters. Brother Charles played sax with B.B. King while brother Cyril became Aaron's partner in a funk band they called the Soul Machine.
Aaron Neville has had a career as a solo artist and also as one of the Neville Brothers. Of mixed African American and Native American heritage, his music also features Cajun influence.
Throughout the sixties Aaron recorded for local Louisiana labels, but it wasn't until 1966 that he broke onto the national scene with "Tell it Like it Is", the plaintive ballad that went #1 on the pop charts, a song still considered a classic in the annals of American music. Issued on the obscure Par-Lo Records, the hit unfortunately coincided with the label's demise. With no follow-up and few royalties, Aaron's career stalled. Beset by demons both professional and personal, he struggled for the next ten years.
Aaron, Charles and Cyril gigged as The Wild Tchoupitoulas in New York before returning to New Orleans in 1976 to record the landmark album of the same name. The Wild Tchoupitoulas album celebrated the Indian tribe whose leader, George (Big Chief Jolly) Landry, was the brothers' beloved uncle and prime musical/spiritual inspiration. For the first time, all four Neville brothers recorded together.
The Neville Brothers began their string of successful albums in 1977, beginning on Capitol and moving to A&M. The high point came in 1989 with "Yellow Moon", written and sung by Aaron on the Neville Brothers' album of the same name. The same year, Aaron appeared with Linda Ronstadt on her album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind, from which their pop duet "Don't Know Much" was a successful single. Aaron credits Linda as a major help in finding a new life for his solo career, which was revived in 1991 with Warm Your Heart, the acclaimed album produced by George Massenburg and Linda Ronstadt.
Aaron has won a total of four Grammy awards: in 1989 for Best Pop Duo with Linda Ronstadt for "Don't Know Much"; in 1989 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance with the Neville Brothers for "Healing Chant," (Aaron is a percussionist as well as singer); in 1990 for Best Pop Duo with Linda Ronstadt for "All My Life"; and for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals with Trisha Yearwood for "I Fall to Pieces" in 1994. He was named "Best Male Singer" two straight years in the Rolling Stone critics' poll.
Aaron has recorded a dozen solo albums ranging in genre from gospel to country and is noted for his unusual vibrato singing style, which he says was inspired by Gene Autry's yodelling.
Neville -- his high pitched, dramatic singing style in particular -- was parodied on the February 19, 2005 episode of Saturday Night Live. In this sketch, Horatio Sanz played Judge Aaron Neville -- a fictional television judge who sang his verdicts and repeatedly applied cocoa butter moisturizer to his skin.
He was also parodied on Family Guy when Peter bought an Aaron Neville megaphone which transformed his voice into Neville's singing style.
He has a tattoo of a sword on his left cheek as well as others in more conventional places.
In August 2005 his home in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina; he evacuated to Memphis, Tennessee before the hurricane hit. Neville performed Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" during NBC's A Concert for Hurricane Relief on September 2, 2005. In 2006, Neville sang the The Star-Spangled Banner alongside Aretha Franklin at the Super Bowl in Detroit. << Less Bio