Posted by themusicsover on October 12, 2010
July 14, 1958 – October 12, 1998
Raymond Myles was acknowledged by his New Orleans’ musical peers as perhaps the greatest gospel talent of his generation. The testimonials to his greatness as a singer, pianist and choir director came from no less than Harry Connick, Jr., Aaron Neville, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Myles devoted his life to addressing vital social issues that impacted his community and affected him personally. From his impoverished beginnings in the everyday violence of New Orleans’ housing projects, he became a dedicated public school music teacher whose commitment to young people steered many of them away from ruin during a murderous crack epidemic in New Orleans during the nineties. “But as hard as he tried, Raymond never felt that his community embraced him with what he considered to be God’s unconditional love,” said Leo Sacks, who produced his only full-length studio album, A Taste of Heaven, and is directing a documentary called A Taste Of Heaven: The Heartbreak Life of Raymond Myles, Gospel Genius of New Orleans, now in production (raymondmylesmovie.com). “These feelings of isolation and disconnection reflected a lifetime of struggle with his elders in the black church, a struggle that boiled down to their refusal to fully accept gay worshipers.” In his short, turbulent life, Myles performed as such prestigious music events as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the Newport Folk Festival. Tragically, his dramatic journey from a childhood of abject poverty to the brink of international music stardom was cut short when he was murdered during a carjacking outside the French Quarter on the night of October 11, 1998. A career criminal from New Orleans was sentenced to 20 years in Louisiana’s Angola state penitentiary for being an accomplice to the killing. So beloved was Raymond Myles that when he was laid to rest, only Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong drew more mourners to their Crescent City funerals.