The Soul Queen of New Orleans shared some important remarks on the TODAY show about giving back to musicians right now.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
February 17, 2021
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When Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, talks — even if it's in her speaking voice and not in beautiful melodic riffs — we listen. And during the difficult time of the coronavirus pandemic she has an important message for us all, relayed yesterday on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna: The music industry — who lift us up with the power of their craft so frequently — is in desperate need of our support.

"New Orleans is a community that comes together no matter what. We're a surviving community. We don't let things get us down, we deal with it, and we move forward. Some things we can control and those we can, we do and those we can't, we let go," Thomas says of the changes in her adopted hometown amid the coronavirus pandemic (Thomas was born in nearby Ponchatoula, Louisiana). "Whenever there's a situation such as this one where all the musicians across Louisiana and the world, for that matter, are unable to do what they love to do, which is perform in front of an audience, this is a time when we really are hopeful because there are a lot of musicians who live paycheck to paycheck and since there's no paycheck it's really difficult for them right now. So this relief fund that's being formed...is going to go a long way to get them through this," she continues, referencing The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation's new PSA to give back to the music community.

Reciting the PSA's tagline, Kotb shares the moving slogan, "If you've ever been saved by music, here's your chance to return the favor." And the moving video certainly does remind us all of the healing power of music, and these dark times presenting an opportunity to give back to this industry as it struggles amidst the ongoing pandemic. Watch below.

Whew. Let's all take a minute to allow that emotional video sink in and reflect. If you're able to contribute, you can make a donation to the Jazz & Heritage Music Relief Fund on GoFundMe.com here.

At the end of the interview, Kotb expresses her heartfelt gratitude for the singer on the week of her 80th birthday: "I have to tell you, you are synonymous with New Orleans. The Grammy in 2007 wasn't nearly enough but you raise every stage, and you light up a crowd and I can't wait until you're back on stage and Jazz Fest. Jenna and I are gonna come together. We wanna wish you a happy birthday."

Credit: Douglas Mason/Getty Images

"Well thank you," she graciously replies. "It isn't every day you turn 80, but every day is my birthday," the legendary soul singer replies. With an attitude like that, it's no wonder Thomas has inspired so many millions of people with her signature sound. We're all looking forward to the day when we can safely gather and hear her on the stage once again. Fingers crossed the rescheduled Jazz Fest dates for October 8 through 17 of this year come to fruition. Mrs. Thomas, we'll be clapping for you extra loudly.