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Neville laments New Orleans’ destruction

Singer says ‘cavalry could have come a little sooner’ to help victims
/ Source: The Associated Press

Aaron Neville, part of the Neville Brothers singing group from New Orleans, said he hasn't been back to his beloved city, but images of flood waters show it has turned into a "toxic gumbo."

"I haven't heard from a lot of my friends and don't know if they are alive or dead," Neville told The Associated Press. "When they drain the city there will be a lot of bodies."

The award-winning singer also said that more than two-dozen relatives have been evacuated from the city and are living in various states.

Neville, 64, believes much of his home is under water and prized valuables, including photos and his four Grammys are gone as well.

He and his brothers spent five years renovating an old house on Canal Street and turned it into a studio where they recorded the family album "Walkin' in the Shadow of Life" and his upcoming solo release, "Christmas Prayer."

He and his brothers are donating a portion of their record sales toward the relief effort. His label, EMI Music Group, also has agreed to match donations gained from both records.

Neville said New Orleans was a "disaster waiting to happen" and wished the response would've been swifter.

"The cavalry could have come a little sooner," he said.

Neville has been living in Memphis for the past week and a half and is unsure if he will return to New Orleans.

"I hope one day they will build New Orleans up high enough so this doesn't happen again," he said. "We don't need to be a bowl surrounded by water anymore."

Neville has been on overdrive this week since Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast and forced one of New Orleans' most famous musical families to flee.

His schedule Thursday included the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," CNN's "Larry King Live" and a telethon on the BET Network that will air Friday. He will also fly to Nashville and join his three brothers to perform for a charity show, "ReAct Now: Music & Relief," which will air on MTV, VH1 and CMT.

The group was on tour, promoting their latest album when the hurricane struck.

Neville, a burly man with a silky voice, is best known for the ballads "Tell It Like It Is" and joining Linda Ronstadt on "Don't Know Much." He is scheduled to sing the national anthem when the New Orleans Saints play the New York Giants on Sept. 18. The Saints also have been displaced because of damage to the Superdome.