For 32 years, Irma Thomas and The Professionals has played Mother’s Day at the Audubon Zoo. Admission is free for mothers so the park was full of smiling women and the families trying to please them. Aurora Nealand & The Royal Roses were onstage when we arrived. We listened to a couple of their fun Dixieland tunes then took a stroll around the zoo. I love the giraffes, birds, big cats and primates, but I’m fascinated by elephants so I was bummed that the elephant area is still under construction. The new water park was up and running and looked like a lot of fun for a family looking to cool off.
Miss Irma Thomas, has been performing for so long that many of the grandparents in the crowd fell in love to her songs at school dances when they were kids. It’s fun to watch the grey-haired fans turn into energized teenagers when she takes the stage. Miss Irma became a mother at 15 and has 7 children, 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. But, as I’ve said before, “her real claim to procreative fame is how many other people’s children she’s responsible for – couples have been making love to her soulful songs for over 55 years.
Miss Irma may be the official Soul Queen of New Orleans, but for me she’s also the unofficial patron saint of motherhood. Not only has she been the soundtrack to this city’s fertility, she’s led by example – getting her AA degree from Delgado at age 60 while not just making a living in a rarified field, but being nominated for 4 Grammys, winning in 2007, winning 9 Blues Music Awards and being inducted to both the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame. In 2007, she even founded Women In Search of Excellence on Delgado’s campus to provide counseling and encouragement for those seeking to further their educations.”
There was plenty of hip swinging and couples spinning and, as always, Miss Irma got everyone to dance a second line with umbrellas and kerchiefs held high. She sang all of my favorites, including Heart of Steel – a fresh, funky and fantastic song she recorded with Galactic and rarely performs with her own band.
Like last year, Miss Irma explained that we were going to be joined by a young lady making her unplanned debut. This time it was girl whose Mother had taught her to sign the lyrics to Boyz to Men’s Mama. While the song played on an iPhone, the girl performed the song for her mother and it was fun watching all the love and pride passing between them.
As if that weren’t enough, a guy I’d been speaking to earlier took the mic and asked our indulgence as he got down on one knee and proposed to his true love. What’s funny is that it’s the second time I’ve watched a couple get engaged at an Irma Thomas show. Miss Irma inspires love – what an amazing gift. God bless Miss Irma and God bless mothers.
Afterward, we had a great meal at Dick & Jenny’s. The Fried Green Tomatoes, topped with lump crab meat and other goodies, were outstanding but the show-stopper was the hot corn bread with kernels of corn that was so buttery you could eat it plain. Even better – they kept it coming.