The notes came naturally to Aaron Neville as a kid. He knew he wanted to sing.
“I made time, even in school,” Neville, 77, said. “I always had songs in my head. The teachers were trying to teach me, and I was thinking of songs I wanted to sing later on.”
The New Orleans native and Grammy Award-winning vocalist will perform at the Historic Everett Theatre on Sept. 22. He’ll sing works from his latest soul and funk hybrid album, 2016’s “Apache,” as well as the greatest hits of his career. Pianist and childhood friend Michael Goods will join him on stage.
His debut single, “Tell It Like It Is,” released in 1966 when he was 25, topped Billboard’s R&B chart for five weeks and sold millions of copies.
The success was not financial — Neville says he never saw a dime of profit because his label at the time, Par Lo, dissolved not long after the release — but it helped launch a career spent on the road playing gigs doing what he loved.
“It put my name out there,” Neville said. “I just wanted to sing. That was my bottom line. When I made records, I was able to do more shows.”
Neville is best known for his distinctive and elegant tenor voice, and has four platinum albums and four top 10 hits to his name. His sound is inspired by the greats, including Fats Domino, Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole.
It’s no wonder he was drawn to music. He grew up with a family of singers in the musically rich environment of New Orleans.
“New Orleans was a gumbo,” Neville said. “It was like a mixture of different sounds, like the food.”
The city’s musical stockpot rubbed off on his own musical tastes; he’s bounced between R&B, soul, country and gospel.
With African-American and Native American (Choctaw) heritage, Neville highlights his ancestry in “Apache,” while also voicing his own social and spiritual concerns he has recorded in a poetry journal since the 1970s.
One of his greatest achievements was joining forces with his three brothers — Art, Charles and Cyril — in 1973 to form the R&B/soul/funk band The Neville Brothers. They gained a following with their fusion of funk, jazz and swing, and for their high-energy performances.
Their crowning moment was winning a Grammy for best pop instrumental performance in 1989. (They disbanded in 2012.)
Neville will perform with a heavy heart Saturday; his brother Charles, the second oldest of the Neville brothers, died in April.
Evan Thompson: 360-544-2999, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @evanthompson_1.
If you go
What: Aaron Neville
Where: Historic Everett Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave., Everett.
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 22
Tickets: starting at $60
More: 425-258-6766 or www.historiceveretttheatre.org