There might be a prettier voice in the world than Aaron Neville's, but if there is, it belongs to a bird, and there's no way that bird looks as good in a leather jacket. Neville has sung duets with Aretha Franklin, has a bridge in India named after him, and has had his voice prescribed by British social workers to help people with depression. He has a new album called My True Story.
One of Neville's big hits was "Don't Know Much," so we've invited him to play a game called "I Do Know Much!" Three questions about Jeopardy! champions.
TOM BODETT, HOST:
And now, the game where we invite big names to answer little questions. There might be a prettier voice in the world than our guest's, but if there is, it belongs to a bird, and no way that bird looks as good in a leather jacket.
BODETT: He sang duets with Aretha Franklin, there is bridge in India named after him, social workers in Britain - this is true - have prescribed his voice to help with depression. His new album is "My True Story." Aaron Neville, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
AARON NEVILLE: Can I tell you the name of the group that was in London?
NEVILLE: The Bananas. The British Awfully Nifty Aaron Neville Appreciation Society.
BODETT: That's great.
ADAM FELBER: Awesome.
BODETT: That's awesome. So, Aaron, thanks so much for doing this. Have you ever listened to the show?
NEVILLE: I have. And I was listening to it just now. It's kind of nuts, you know.
BODETT: Yeah, yeah, no, it is.
BODETT: I'm sorry you had to do that.
NEVILLE: No, no, I enjoyed it.
NEVILLE: The one about the mourners also.
BODETT: Oh you would have?
NEVILLE: I did guess it, yeah.
BODETT: Oh, good.
P. J. O'ROURKE: OK, good.
BODETT: So you're playing at home, you're getting in the swing of it.
NEVILLE: Yeah, do I get a prize?
BODETT: Yes. Yes, you do.
O'ROURKE: You get to be on the show.
BODETT: All right. So Aaron, you have one of the sweetest voices in music. And you're a big, scary looking guy. I mean, you have...
NEVILLE: The total package.
BODETT: Yeah, well you've got like this tattoo of a sword on your face and...
BODETT: So, like is the sweet voice compensating for your look or is, like, the bad ass look to compensate for your sweet voice?
NEVILLE: You know, I never did get the answer to that question myself. You know, like I just take it as it come and sing with Linda Ronstadt and Trisha Year wood and all them people, you know, so I get the perks.
BODETT: So are people ever surprised when they see you, if they don't know what you look like?
NEVILLE: Yeah, I've heard that before, you know, but I mean, it's cool. I think it's...
BODETT: Do people every think you're lying? You're not Aaron Neville?
NEVILLE: They might say has anybody told you that you look like Aaron Neville.
NEVILLE: I say sometimes.
BODETT: Yeah. But then do you ever have to like sing for them to show them that you're like the guy?
NEVILLE: Yeah. You know, I used to sing my way into the movies when I was about eight years old or something like that. So, you know...
BODETT: So you used to sing for the ticket taker to get entrance to the movie.
BODETT: And you've probably got one of the most imitated voices in music. Even Beyonce has...
NEVILLE: Yeah, I saw that. Yeah.
BODETT: Yeah, what'd you think of that?
NEVILLE: I enjoyed it. I mean it's flattery, you know. I used to see the guy on "Saturday Night Live" talking about the coco butter. I don't know where that comes from. He had a cut off jean jacket and he'd say yeah, I need the coco butter.
BODETT: But I do have to say the...
FELBER: Did you just do an impression of an impression of an impression?
BODETT: You have single-handedly kept the cutoff jean jacket in fashion, I have to say that. You rock that.
NEVILLE: Yeah. Since I met Sarah, Sarah has got me dressing kind of up to date now. You know, I had to throw the cutaway jean jacket away.
O'ROURKE: Oh, no.
O'ROURKE: That's the first thing women do, darn it. They go through your closet and throw out all your favorite clothes.
BODETT: So, Aaron, I understand you went through something of a rough patch when you were a teenager, and you actually got busted for joyriding.
NEVILLE: Yeah, but I mean we used to bring the cars back at least two blocks from where we'd take them from, you know.
NEVILLE: And we definitely didn't get in a wreck.
BODETT: No, you were a thoughtful car thief.
FELBER: It's the right thing to do. You can't leave it where you found it. Then they'd catch you.
NEVILLE: No, about three blocks away.
BODETT: Well, and I also understand you got your first tattoo at the age of 16. What's the story behind that?
NEVILLE: Well, you know, guys was doing tattoos and it was almost a skull and crossbones, but somebody talked me out of it. They said no, man, don't do that, get the dagger. I said. OK, give me the dagger.
And the guy name was Jason Pickett. We was in school together, and he'd sit on my dad's back porch and put it on. And my dad came home, "Aaron, what you did done?" I said I got a tattoo. And he made me go in the bedroom with soap and a brillo pad and scrub it.
BODETT: A brillo pad?
NEVILLE: Yeah, the skin came off but the tattoo stayed.
BODETT: Yeah, that's like industrial defoliant there. Your new record is terrific. I've been listening to it all week.
NEVILLE: Thank you.
BODETT: And I see that Keith Richards co-produced it.
BODETT: You've been friends for a long time with Mr. Richards. Do you have any stories to tell? We love Keith Richards' stories.
NEVILLE: No, I mean the only stories we have is like we met opening for the Stones in '81 and we first met them. We started running across each other's paths in a sense. And we always - he'd call me to do a background part on something he was doing or whatever, you know.
BODETT: So I understand you sang the national anthem for a professional wrestling match. What was that like?
NEVILLE: Oh, that was cool. Yeah, I'm friends with Brett "The Hitman" Hart, so like he and I - he called me to come in. One time I got in the ring with Hacksaw Jim Duggan and somebody and he gave me this 2x4 and said, "Hit the guy." I said, no, I'm not hitting the dude; he'll be throwing me around this ring. But it was fun. Macho Man, I was friends with him.
BODETT: Brett "The Hitman" March, was that him?
NEVILLE: No, Brett "The Hitman" Hart.
BODETT: Hart, yeah, and Keith Richards, Tom Waits, what was your wedding like?
NEVILLE: No, it was a quiet wedding. We just had 15 family and friends.
O'ROURKE: That sounds wise.
BODETT: Yeah, considering the...
O'ROURKE: Given some of the people that have been mentioned here.
FELBER: Did you ever cover somebody's song just because you didn't like them and you wanted to sing it better than them? Because it seems like that's the kind of thing that you could do all the time. Like, yeah, I'll show you. I'll sing your song.
FELBER: And then nobody is going to listen to your version.
BODETT: Yeah, you mess with me, I'm going to cover your song.
NEVILLE: Y'all a little crazy. You know that?
BODETT: Yeah, we're public radio people. We're extremely passive aggressive.
FELBER: Because honestly that's what I would do if I had a weapon like that in my throat.
BODETT: Right, yeah. Well, all right, Aaron Neville, now it's time for you to play a game that we're calling?
CARL KASELL: I do know much.
BODETT: One of your big hits was "Don't Know Much," of course, but we're going to ask you three questions about people who do know much: "Jeopardy" champions. Guess the correct answer...
BODETT: ...and you win Carl's voice on the home messaging machine of one of our listeners. Carl, who is Aaron Neville playing for?
KASELL: Alysa Rogers of Boulder, Colorado.
BODETT: All right.
NEVILLE: I'm ready.
BODETT: OK. Here's your first question. '74 game Jeopardy winner, Ken Jennings was asked the question: "This term for a long-handled gardening tool can also mean an immoral pleasure seeker." Did Jennings answer A: What is a Roto Rooter? B: What is a hoe? Or C: what is the Charlie Sheen Machine?
NEVILLE: I think he said B.
BODETT: And it is B.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
BODETT: The correct answer was rake. Jennings, who was famously of the Mormon faith, when he said "hoe" he was teased by Alex Trebek, saying "Is that what they teach you in those schools in Utah?" All right, here's your next question.
NEVILLE: All right.
BODETT: You may remember that IBM's Watson Supercomputer took on "Jeopardy" champions, and won. The scientists who designed it discovered it had one surprising problem though, what? A: It couldn't operate without a daily serving of human blood?
BODETT: B: It cursed like a sailor, once blurting out (bleep). C: It fell deeply in love with Alex Trebek?
NEVILLE: I think it's B.
BODETT: B, (bleep) you're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
FELBER: Well, who could blame it. Honestly, if you were that much smarter than everybody, wouldn't you just have to do that a lot?
BODETT: It's true. After uploading the Urban Dictionary in Watson's memory...
BODETT: ...the super computer began using inappropriate profanity at random, much as 4-year olds do when they learn one of daddy's driving words.
BODETT: Unlike with children, programmers were able to scrub the new dictionary from Watson's hard drive. OK, Aaron, here's here's your last question: Another question about Ken Jennings...
BODETT: ...the greatest "Jeopardy" champion of all time. He has said the single biggest problem that fame has caused him is what? A: Old people won't stop touching him?
BODETT: B: Alex Trebek won't stop calling him, quote, just to talk? Or C: His local Starbucks guy constantly makes him order in the form of a question?
NEVILLE: I think it's C.
BODETT: No, it's actually A.
NEVILLE: Oh, wow.
BODETT: He says old people can't keep their dry, lilac-scented hands off me.
BODETT: Man, do old people ever love "Jeopardy." I can't go anywhere in public where there might be old people, like Hallmark stores or cemeteries.
NEVILLE: Well, I'm only 45 but I've been watching "Jeopardy" since Art Fleming was on there.
BODETT: All right, there you go.
BODETT: Carl, now did Aaron Neville do on our quiz?
KASELL: Aaron, you had two correct answers, so you win for Alysa Rogers. Congratulations.
BODETT: Aaron Neville's new album is "My True Story." Aaron Neville, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
NEVILLE: I had fun. Man, it was real cool.
BODETT: It was fun for us. Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.