Jackie Neal (21st Century)

Daddy B. Nice's #28 ranked Southern Soul Artist



Portrait of Jackie Neal (21st Century) by Daddy B. Nice
 



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"(That's) The Way We Roll"

Jackie Neal (21st Century)

Composed by Jackie & Tyree Neal


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.

***********

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.

The Neal family members' collective resumes reads like a "Who's Who" of contemporary rhythm and blues: work with Little Milton, James Cotton, Fenton Robinson, Bobby Rush, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Johnny Winter, Koko Taylor and Lonnie Brooks, among others.

Still, even amongst such gifted siblings, Jackie stood out from an early age for her riveting stage presence and unique vocal talent. Her first CD, The Blues Won't Let You Go, (Cititrax, 1995) is out of print. Looking For A Sweet Thang arrived literally at the dawn of the new century (Jan. 4, 2000, Backstreet). Two years later, Backstreet released Neal's Money Can't Buy Me Love.

The ballad got some air time on the Stations of the Deep South, but not enough to make it a "hit," and another two years passed: enough time for Neal's fans to wonder whether the young performer was coming back.

And then, to an almost triumphant response, a new LP, Down In Da Club, arrived in early 2005, filled with stark, uncompromising, minor-key-sounding, quasi-acapella blues tracks.

"He Don't Love Me," "My Kind Of Man," "Down In Da Club" and "The Way We Roll" all drew strong and immediate chitlin' circuit air play.

Jackie Neal's vocal style had matured. She sounded "blacker" than anyone on the scene, like a contemporary Esther Phillips--fearless--and with limitless reserves of inner strength. Deejays inserted the new songs into their rotations with a gusto that indicated a strong residual affection and respect for the young artist whose first big song ("Money Can't Buy Me Love") had been, frankly, to a large extent ignored.

Sadly, in March of 2005, not long after the passing away of fellow artist Tyrone Davis, deejays cued up Johnnie Taylor's "Soul Heaven" for young Jackie Neal, murdered by a jealous ex-boyfriend.


Song's Transcendent Moment

"With the Neal family,
It's all about love, baby.
See, our love
We can't just fight it.
See, our love
Keeps growing higher.
That's the way we roll.
That's the way we roll."


Tidbits

1.

September 8, 2012: YouTube offerings for Jackie Neal


Listen to Jackie Neal singing "That's The Way We Roll" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "He Don't Love Me" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "Right Thang, Wrong Man" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "In Love With Yo Stuff" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "Work It In The Middle" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "Down In The Club" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "Zydeco Dance" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "Money Can't Buy Me Love" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "Till You Get What I Need" Live on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "Hurt By Love" on YouTube.

Listen to Jackie Neal singing "Twurk It" on YouTube.



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"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy (That's) The Way We Roll by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
(That's) The Way We Roll


CD: Down In Da Club
Label: Jazzy

Sample or Buy
Down In Da Club


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Money Can't Buy Me Love by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Money Can't Buy Me Love


CD: Money Can't Buy Me Love
Label: Backstreet

Sample or Buy
Money Can't Buy Me Love


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy He Don't Love Me  by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
He Don't Love Me


CD: Down In Da Club
Label: Jazzy

Sample or Buy
Down In Da Club


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy In Love With Yo Stuff by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
In Love With Yo Stuff


CD: Money Can't Buy Me Love
Label: Backstreet

Sample or Buy
Money Can't Buy Me Love


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Right Thang, Wrong Man by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Right Thang, Wrong Man


CD: Looking For A Sweet Thang
Label: Backstreet

Sample or Buy
Looking For A Sweet Thang


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Drop The Curtain On You by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Drop The Curtain On You


CD: The Blues Won't Let You Go
Label: Cititrax

Sample or Buy
Blues Won't Let You Go


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Zydeco Dance by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Zydeco Dance


CD: Down In Da Club
Label: Jazzy

Sample or Buy
Down In Da Club


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Down In The Club by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Down In The Club


CD: Down In Da Club
Label: Jazzy

Sample or Buy
Down In Da Club


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy M.A.N. by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
M.A.N.


CD: Looking For A Sweet Thang
Label: Backstreet

Sample or Buy
Looking For A Sweet Thang


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Nooky Thang by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Nooky Thang


CD: Looking For A Sweet Thang
Label: Backstreet

Sample or Buy
Looking For A Sweet Thang


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Twurk It by Jackie Neal (21st Century)
Twurk It


CD: Money Can't Buy Me Love
Label: Backstreet

Sample or Buy
Money Can't Buy Me Love


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