Giants of the Fest: Irma Thomas occupies rare air in the music world

NEW ORLEANS -- Irma Thomas is the Grammy-winning Soul Queen of New Orleans -- and she's been rocking at Jazz Fest since 1974.

Thomas, who pursued a career on the West Coast before moving home in the '70s to raise a family, remembers that first Jazz Fest performance fondly.

"It was a pleasant homecoming, and I realized how much I missed my city," she said.

As someone who has graced the stages of Jazz Fest for more than four decades, Thomas has a unique appreciation for what those seven days at the Fair Grounds offers to both locals and the world.

"It's a big festival that really gives the locals and when I say locals, I mean not just New Orleans, but the state of Louisiana, musicians, an opportunity to be seen by people from other countries, not just other cities and states, but other countries," she said. "They're eager to soak up the talent that we have here."

Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis noted how incredible it is that New Orleans has such amazing musicians who, after all these decades, are still "at the top of their game."

"I think she just had her 70th birthday, right? Her voice is ringing like a bell. I mean it's amazing. It's thrilling. It's one of the great things that not only the festival has but that New Orleans has because we have Davell and Jonathan Batiste coming back, but we also have the giants. We have Aaron Neville. We have Irma Thomas," Davis said.