In Honor of Uncle Lionel Batiste

00:00 August 01, 2012
By: Kristal Blue

So many words can be used to describe such a charismatic and genuine man who meant so many different things to so many people. To most who did not have the blessing of personally knowing "Uncle" Lionel Batiste, he was a New Orleans icon. A direct representation of the pervading spirit of New Orleans brass music, the tradition of the cherished second line, and a contemporary link to the foundation of what makes our city truly a wonder of its own. Everyone knew who he was (and still do). Even if you couldn't say you've met him, you still felt like Uncle Lionel was so engaging that you could rely on him to cheer you up in hard times just like you would a family member. Marching with kazoo in one hand and bass drum mallets in the other, joyously singing another Treme Brass Band number, he reminded people of why they live here and why so many souls flock to this fair city in search of happiness; to live in a place where life is savored by making the most of every moment through a celebration of community, art, and good easy livin.' Performing classically fun tunes with his Treme Brass Band or singing a heartfelt number like "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" on a random night on Frenchmen Street, he embodied what it means to be a New Orleans showman. His vibratious attitude transcended his quaint stature, which was almost always accompanied by swank suited hats that added even more swagger to his flamboyant presence, and touched an uncountable amount of people throughout the decades with his music, nights on the town, and sincere joy that infected everyone around him.

Many of those who did know him on a personal level regarded him as a best friend, relative, and most importantly a teacher. As he had been entertaining crowds since the age of 11 playing bass drum for the Square Social Deal & Dance Club, he knew how to make a living playing music and wasn't shy to share his knowledge with others. Inspiring many musicians, he not only taught others music in the traditional Treme fashion, but he taught others about how to love life. Prized musicians, such as Kermit Ruffins, regard him as their mentor not only for music, but life as a whole. Known for being the life of the party and a man about town, his embracing personality was a wonder to feel and behold. He represented his neighborhood as well as all of the city, and was proud to be himself as well as surround himself with the people he loved, shouting messages of spreading music into neighborhoods across the country.

So it is with the deepest regards that we all honor you "Uncle" Lionel Batiste. A pure embodiment of what it means to be a New Orleanian, you are a gift to us all. Your rhythms will be missed, but we'll make sure the music and spirit live forever. Whether he inspired you to pursue your passions, dance in the street like no one's looking, or simply to have a smile on your face, "Uncle" Lionel Batiste was and will remain a caring uncle to everyone who calls New Orleans home.

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