At 82, five-time Grammy Award-winning singer Aaron Neville has written a frank new memoir, Tell It Like It Is: My Story. Neville recounts not only his career successes, but his struggles as a young father, his incarceration and his many years battling heroin addiction. He tells AARP how it felt to write his story, the advice he’d give his younger self and how he’s spending his days on the farm.
How did it feel to write your memoir?
It was a roller-coaster ride, right? A lot of places it got emotional — going back over different things — but it freed my soul.
Was it harder than writing a song?
Oh man, it was easy, because I know all the parts. It just came to me automatically. I took it year by year, from being born all the way up to now. I wanted to be the one to tell my story. I don’t want — after I’m gone — somebody else to be trying to tell it, and they weren’t there to know the details like I know them.
Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell him, “Hey man, first of all, do not get a tattoo on your face at 16. Do not use heroin at 16. Do not go steal cars and burglarize and stuff like that. Live on the straight and narrow.”
How are you feeling in your 80s?
I feel great. Me and my wife Sarah [photographer Sarah A. Friedman], we work out together about four times a week, and I’m eating right. I feel that, like they say: Age is a concept made up by man. So how old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?
Who are some of your favorite musicians?
Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Bob Marley. I like Bob Dylan’s stuff. All of the doo-wop. I’m a doo-wop from way back.
Do you miss anything about touring on the road?
I miss the people, but I don’t miss the traveling. I don’t miss the airport. I call it “airport agony”: The flight has been canceled and we don’t know where your luggage is yet, so good luck.
It seems you’ve traded life on the road for life on your farm in upstate New York, right?
I call it an enchanted forest. There’s so many different animals that come around: the deer, the fox, the rabbits, you name it. And all kinds of birds. It’s enchanting, it’s peaceful. I get up in the morning, go out to do my little chores. Sarah’s got these flowers on the deck. They smell so good, and first thing in the morning, all the birds are singing. I go out and water the plants. While I’m out there, I eat maybe about 20 or 25 of those little cherry tomatoes.
We also see your rescue dog, Apache, by your side on your social media posts. How is he doing?
He’s a little boy in a dog suit. He’s 10. He lets us sleep in his bed.
You and Sarah have been married for almost 13 years. What’s the secret to a happy marriage?
It’s respect and love, and I always have the last word: “Yes, dear.”