Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Daddy B. Nice's #28 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"That's The Way We Roll"
Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Composed by Jackie & Tyree Neal
November 1, 2017:
Jackie Neal, Forerunner
Daddy B. Nice notes:
So young when she died--so "contemporary" in relevance during the fragile birth of 21st-Century southern soul--Jackie Neal is an authentic "forerunner," and recent developments (the resurgence of Louisiana-style, zydeco-tinged southern soul) have only made her contributions in retrospect even more significant.
It was in Jackie Neal's music that I first heard the term "nookie thing". It was in Jackie Neal's music I first heard the term "twerking". And it was through Jackie Neal's music that I savored my first taste of zydeco.
What would Jackie Neal think of the southern soul scene now, in 2017? She'd be amazed, floored by the artist participation and audience interest. And she'd be transfixed, I believe, by the friendly relationship between the fans of southern soul and zydeco, and the mingling of the two styles.
Note: Jackie Neal also appears on Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (90's-00's). The "21st Century" after Jackie Neal's name in the headline is to distinguish her artist-guide entries on this page from her artist-guide page on Daddy B. Nice's original chart.
Daddy B. Nice's Updated Profile:
It was a beauty shop like the one Omar Cunningham sings about in "The Beauty Shop": a meeting place, a social circle, a rumor mill and a place to be seen second only to that night's club.
"The beauty shop's putting our business
Out in the street.
Talking about us,
Talking about you,
Talking about me."
It was early in the evening on March 10, 2005, and Jackie Neal--a fully-grown woman of 38, already famous in the Deep South for her electrifying performances--was in the T'Nails And Hair Salon in Baton Rouge, surrounded by friends, getting her hair done, when her old boyfriend, James White, came into the shop.
Neal had broken off her relationship with White three months earlier, but White had still not resigned himself to the separation.
Listen to Jackie Neal singing "He Don't Love (But He Can't Stand To See Me With Another Man)" on YouTube while you read.
White soon left and the tension in the beauty shop lifted. The small talk and festive atmosphere resumed, and drawn by Neal, a member of Louisiana's most celebrated blues family, the little shop filled with even more people.
A little later, according to Baton Rouge, Louisiana Police Major Pat Tauzin, the spurned boyfriend--James White--returned and entered the crowded beauty parlor. Then he brandished a gun.
While women ducked and dodged, White aimed the pistol at Jackie Neal, killing her outright, then he turned and shot at Angela Meyers, who was running out the door, then he turned the gun on himself.
Jackie Neal died on the scene. White and Angela Meyers, both critically wounded, were rushed to the hospital. White was charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
This is the story behind the passing of Jackie Neal, who was at the height of her career and on the cusp of becoming Southern Soul music's resident queen.
This is the answer to the question of Jackie Neal's death that has been asked of this website more than any other--month after month, year after year--since 2005. It's as if people can't let it go.
Something about Jackie Neal's music or the terrible way she died--or a combination of both--holds a hammerlock fascination for a significant portion of the Southern Soul public. The interest weighs the enormous promise of the Louisiana diva against the way she was cut down in the prime of life.
One of only two posthumous stars--both younger generation--to be featured on Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 21st Century Coundown, Jackie Neal's musical contributions signal the last, rarefied climb to the pinnacle of Southern Soul music in the new era. Marinated in the blues (her first album in 1995 was all blues), Neal was nevertheless forging a daring and original Southern Soul style.
"Right Thang, Wrong Man" (from Looking For A Sweet Thang, 2000), "In Love With Yo Stuff" (from Money Can't Buy Me Love, 2002) and "He Don't Love Me" (from Down in Da Club, 2005) are the most original and icon-making: spare, stark, powerful, near-acapella performances, vocals brimming with intensity and desperation.
Jackie had a special electricity and charisma above and beyond the usual successful musician. What Sir Charles Jones represented among the male singers, Jackie represented among the female singers. She was simultaneously Southern Soul and hip, twin traits seen rarely since the death of the enormously influential and exorbitantly cool Johnnie Taylor.
Listen to Jackie Neal singing "That's The Way We Roll" on YouTube while you read.
"That's The Way We Roll" was Jackie's song about family, softer in tone and lullaby-like, yet delivered with Neal's gravel-hard, husky--yet always appealing--alto. More of a "B-side"-type song when it first appeared on Jackie's breakthrough CD, Down In Da Club (the last recording before her death), "The Way We Roll" has aged well over the years, gathering adherents and fans and becoming in the process the finest song about family in the Southern Soul canon.
"The Way We Roll" is helped immensely by the delectable mouth harp of Jackie Neal's most famous sibling, bluesman Kenny Neal. Coupled with a chorus that seems to include Neal family members of all ages--including kids--the song floats by like a scudding cloud in a blue sky.
Tyree Neal, another sibling who has gone on to become a fixture in Southern Soul, co-wrote the song and contributes a homey, humble, perfectly-apt rapping verse that provides a chance of pace and adds even more flavor.
Any performer, male or female, seeking inspiration as the shadow the new century lengthens will benefit by returning to Jackie Neal's catalog. Too talented and original to imitate, Jackie Neal's work nevertheless inspires through its sheer, brilliant clarity. Some performers are just stronger and bigger than the rank and file.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Jackie Neal (21st Century)
The little sister of the respected blues singer and Louisiana-based Alligator recording artist, Kenny ("I'm A Blues Man") Neal, Jackie is a member of a musical family parented by Raful and Shirley Neal that includes Frederick, Graylon, Larry, Lil' Ray, Noel, Ronnie, Darnell and twins Charlene and Darlene.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"With the Neal family,
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
If you liked Keisa Brown's "I've Been Lonely For So Long," you'll love Jackie Neal's "The Way We Roll."
Honorary "B" Side
"Money Can't Buy Me Love"
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