Saturday, July 15, 2023

Book Review: Tell It Like It Is

Aaron Neville’s first #1 hit, “Tell It Like it Is,” was released in 1966. In the mid-70s he formed the Neville Brothers with Art, Charles, and Cyril—now known as the “First Family of New Orleans”—and they released more than a dozen influential albums. Given his one-of-a-kind, soaring falsetto, Aaron was the breakout star, and over the next six decades, he had four platinum albums, three #1 songs, numerous film and television appearances, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014. His triple-platinum duets with Linda Ronstadt (including the Grammy-Award-winning hit “I Don’t Know Much”) showcased the softer side of his voice, and the smoking hot funky soul of the Neville Brothers cemented his legacy as an R&B legend.

But few people know the challenging and circuitous road Aaron took to fame. Born in a housing project in New Orleans of Black and Native American heritage, Aaron struggled as a teenage father working to raise a family while building his career as a musician, surviving a stint in jail for car theft and many years battling heroin addiction. Recognized by the dagger tattoo on his cheek and his St. Jude medallion earring, Neville credits St. Jude—the patron saint of lost cases—for turning his life around. He found healing and salvation in music. Aaron Neville is a man who by all accounts should not have made it. Tell It Like It Is shares his story for the first time.

This autobiography hits stores September 5, 2023. Hachette Books provided an early galley for review.

As a music fan, I knew Aaron's name and a few of his songs. I did not know his whole story until reading this book.

I instantly was taken to his writing style. Not surprising at all for a songwriter to be able to also craft lovely, lyrical narratives as well. And for a man of his age (82), he memories are very sharp and his descriptions vivid. Of course, like the book's title, he does indeed tell it like it is. There is no sugarcoating here, no painting the past in a better light. He gives the reader all the dirt from his past and let's us judge it for ourselves.

While music has been part of most of his life, it is mostly the second half of the book that focuses on his career success. As a huge fan of Linda Ronstadt's, I was pleased to hear his thoughts on recording and performing with her.

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