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Wild about Harry

I know that I risk humiliation. But I have decided to out myself on this one.

I watch American Idol. (In my defense, I also watch CBS Sunday Morning, although not as often.)

Anyway, Harry Connick Jr. is the best thing to happen to the show since Simon Cowell left. I’m not alone in this opinion – the Internet is humming with accolades for this native son of New Orleans.

It seems the whole world is wild about Harry.

Harry Connick Jr. at age 7, in a photo posted on his cousin's website

Harry Connick Jr. at age 7, in a photo posted on his cousin's website

Of course, here in New Orleans, we’re well versed in Harry lore. There is, after all, a Harry Connick Senior, the city’s former 30-year Orleans Parish DA and the first musical Harry, dubbed by Time magazine “the singing District Attorney.”

Harry Sr. has been a proud promoter of Harry Jr. ever since he had his 5-year-old son sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at his 1973 New Orleans campaign headquarters. (Harry Sr. ran against and beat Jim Garrison, the former DA who unsuccessfully prosecuted Clay Show for conspiracy in the JFK assassination; he was played by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s JFK. But I digress.)

Harry Jr., who Tony Bennett once said “could be the next Frank Sinatra,” has crooned in front of local audiences ever since.

We claim him.

He studied at NOCCA, under the tutelage of Ellis Marsalis. He played with Eubie Blake at the Royal Orleans, took piano lessons from James Booker and was often called up to the stage to perform with the bands at the Maison Bourbon, where his dad took him to hear and learn from local jazz greats.

And Harry Connick Jr. claims us.

He helped start the krewe of Orpheus. After Hurricane Katrina, he and Branford Marsalis created the Musician’s Village. His albums bear his allegence: Oh, My NOLA, Smokey Mary, Chanson du Vieux Carre. He talks about music with metaphors like gumbo. He told Nola.com TV critic Dave Walker that “I schedule my stuff around Saints games.” And you gotta love someone who tweets: hey @drewbrees - u checkin' out my t- shirt on @AmericanIdol?

As the singer himself puts it: “I've been all over the world. I love New York, I love Paris, San Francisco, so many places. But there's no place like New Orleans. It's got the best food. It's got the best music. It's got the best people. It's got the most fun stuff to do.”

Connick with Jennifor Lopez and Keith Urban on the Idol set

Connick with Jennifor Lopez and Keith Urban on the Idol set

So we know why New Orleanians love Harry. The rest of the world – or at least the American Idol viewing public – like him for reasons beyond geography. To wit:

  • He’s funny and self-deprecating. He turned contestants’ awestruck adoration of his fellow judges – and his relative obscurity -- into a running joke. Keith Urban: “What did you do last night?” Harry Connick Jr.: "I went to the bar and got drunk because nobody knew who I was."
  • He knows his stuff. Who else would explain pentatonics to us?
  • Finally, someone who can say no. Okay, so J-Lo calls him Hatchet Harry and Dr. No. We missed that.

Oh, heck. Just tune in to this ENTV video for the top 10 Harry moments of the American Idol opener, and see for yourselves:

 

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]