New Orleans is on a big roll - and Harry's cheering it on

New Orleans is on a big roll - and Harry's cheering it on
February 25, 2010
Chris Welch
The Huntsville Times

inger, songwriter and actor Harry Connick Jr. says it's been crazy in his hometown of New Orleans since the Saints marched back in with a Super Bowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

After a championship party through the city - complete with beads and floats borrowed from Mardi Gras - the official Mardi Gras celebration started (and may still be going).

"Oh man, it's unbelievable," Connick said in a phone interview. He's performing tonight in the Von Braun Center Concert Hall.

"It's insane. The city is on fire," he said.

"It's just ?if the Saints didn't exist, I think the city was on its way to rebuilding. But the fact they exist, it's exacerbated the whole thing. The community is uplifted, and there's something to talk about and reason to celebrate. The whole outlook of the whole community has changed."

There are few bigger cheerleaders and supporters of the Saints and the city of New Orleans.

Connick was born in New Orleans and got much of his inspiration and civic pride from his father, who recently retired after 30 years with the New Orleans district attorney's office, and his mother, who was a judge there (she died when he was 13). He hasn't served in a public office, but Connick has served in many other ways, especially since Hurricane Katrina demolished the city in 2005.

Connick helped organize a national telethon for the city that was televised and featured such artists as Kanye West and Tim McGraw. He and jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis also started New Orleans Musicians' Village, a Habit for Humanity community in the Ninth Ward that has provided 72 new homes and five duplexes for displaced musicians and their families.

"It's going great. All the houses are done," Connick said. "We're also looking forward to opening The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. It's going to be an amazing facility, not only for young people, but performing people. It will be a big community center."

In the midst of all his charitable work for the city, Connick also has had time to create new music and perform. His latest album, "Your Songs," is a collection of popular classics produced by the legendary Clive Davis. It includes Elton John's "Your Song," The Beatles' "And I Love Her" and others.

"Although I have wrestled with this for some time, I don't think that anyone's version of a great song, however classic, should preclude my singing it," Connick said. "I respect the originals but believe that there is always room for another interpretation."

Connick also sang the national anthem at the recent Daytona 500, rode on floats in the Mardi Gras parades and continues to tour.
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