Fans gather to remember 'Uncle Lionel', New Orleans music icon

Jul 20, 2012

A burial service for a New Orleans music icon known simply as "Uncle Lionel" had to be postponed when a violent thunderstorm flooded the cemetery where he will be laid to rest.

But the foul weather didn't stop hundreds of fans, friends and neighbors from packing a theater for Lionel Batiste's funeral Friday, turning a somber ceremony into a fittingly raucous celebration of his life. The audience at the Mahalia Jackson Theater danced in the aisles and gave standing ovations to musicians paying tribute to Batiste.

Batiste, a vocalist, bass drummer and assistant leader of the Treme Bass Band, died July 8 at age 81.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Batiste was a "drum major for freedom" who brought bring joy to a city reeling from Hurricane Katrina.