#433: Don’t Take Away My Heaven by Aaron Neville
Aaron Joseph Neville was born in New Orleans in 1941. When he was fifteen he made his first visit to a recording studio and was a backing vocalist. When he was sixteen he went to a tattoo parlor and got a facial tattoo of a cross. At seventeen, his dream to be a singer was derailed when he was arrested for joy-riding. He also was doing drugs and drinking heavily. When he was nineteen in 1960, Aaron Neville recorded “Over You”, a song penned by Alan Toussaint. The single made the Top 50 on the CFUN chart in Vancouver (BC), but stalled at #111 below the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. This was the first of five singles on the Minit record label between 1960 and 1962. Neville returned to the Top 40 on CFUN in early 1962 with “How Many Times”, putting his quivering vibrato on display. His career continued under the radar for the next four years until he had a huge Top Ten hit in the winter of 1966-67. In January 1967 Aaron Neville reached number-one on the CKLG Boss 4o with “Tell It Like It Is” in its third week on the chart. The single also topped the charts in Chatham (ON) and Montreal, #2 in Windsor (ON) and Belleville (ON), #4 in Hamilton (ON) and #5 in Regina (SK).
Neville had a few more releases on Par-Lo Records, but the label failed by the end of the year. One of these singles, “These Three Words” resembled the musical arrangement of “Tell It Like It Is”, but was overlooked due to lack of promotion. Into the late seventies Aaron Neville recorded over a half a dozen singles on the Safari, Bell, Mercury and Palm Tree record labels with little success. The modest exception was “All These Things”, a regional hit in New Orleans in 1969.
In 1976 the Mardi Gras Indian ensemble, The Wild Tchoupitoulas, recorded a record. Within the ensemble were the four Neville Brothers, who were part Native American and African-American. While the album was not commercially successful, it was critically acclaimed and encouraged the Neville Brothers to pursue a recording career. In 1978 Aaron Neville joined with his brothers Art, Charles and Cyril to record for the first time as the Neville Brothers, releasing a self-titled debut album on Capitol Records. Subsequent albums were released: Fiyo on the Bayou (1981), Uptown (1987), Yellow Moon (1989), Brothers Keeper (1990) and Family Groove (1992). In 1990 the Neville Brothers contributed a cover of “In The Still Of The Night” for the Red Hot + Blue AIDS benefit album.
In 1986 Aaron Neville released his first album since the 1960s titled Orchid In The Storm. The album included a cover of the Johnny Ace R&B classic “Pledging My Love”. Next, in 1989 Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt teamed up to record “Don’t Know Much”. The single climbed to #2 in Vancouver (BC) and on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1990 Neville and Linda Ronstadt released another duet titled “All My Life”. the single climbed to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1991 the duet won Ronstadt and Neville a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance for a Duo or Group with Vocal. Also in 1991 Aaron Neville had a Top Ten hit single with “Everybody Plays The Fool”, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #10 in Vancouver (BC).
In 1993 Aaron Neville released “Don’t Take Away My Heaven” as his debut single from his fifth studio album The Grand Tour.
“Don’t Take Away My Heaven” is a song pleading to one’s lover, “baby please,” to never take away their love and leave them. The lover in the song is the singers’ “heaven.” With them in his world the sun shines, stars shine in the sky and the world turns. But if the lover breaks off the relationship the sun will refuse to shine, stars will fall from the sky and the world will cease to spin.
In 1993 CKLG in Vancouver was one of the few radio markets where “Don’t Take Away My Heaven” was on the Top 40 playlist. The song had its best chart run in Vancouver (BC) peaking at #6.
Aaron Neville appeared with the Neville Brothers in concert at General Motors Place in Vancouver (BC) on August 7, 1998. The opening acts were Long John Baldry and B.B. King.
During the rest of the decade, Aaron Neville released duets with Trisha Yearwood, Kenny G, Anne Murray and Robbie Robertson. However, none of these efforts were commercially successful. In the years since he released The Grand Tour, Aaron Neville has released fourteen more albums. His most recent is Apache in 2016.
In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Aaron Neville moved to New York City. In 2009, with the Mt. Zion Mass Choir, Aaron Neville recorded a cover of the Sam Cooke classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” on the album Oh Happy Day.
In other work, Aaron Neville has appeared in a number of feature films. In 1991 he appeared in Zandalee, an erotic thriller/romantic tragedy. In 1996 Neville appeared as himself in a psychological thriller titled The Fan. In 2017, he was in the comedy film Sandy Wexler, and in 2019 in the documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.
In concert Aaron Neville has toured New Zealand, Denmark and numerous venues in the United States. But mostly he has been a regular at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and other venues in New Orleans.
“Aaron Neville Bio,” Aaronneville.com.
Simon Sweetman, “Talking With A Living Legend: The Aaron Neville Interview,” Off The Tracks, May 1, 2017.
Dean Shapiro, “Aaron Neville Tells It Like It Is,” whereyat.com, April 29, 2019.
“The Neville Brothers,” setlist.fm, August 7, 1998.
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