It’ll be raining “Pennies from Heaven” at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium Saturday night as Lena Prima makes her Baton Rouge debut.
Prima will perform for the Greater Baton Rouge American Italian Association’s Italian Heritage Festa’s “An Evening in Concert” at 6:30 p.m.
“Pennies” is her favorite song among those made popular by her late father, Louis Prima.
“He sang that to me when I was a little girl,” says Prima, who even named the jewelry line she created after the tune.
Like her dad, Prima split her time between New Orleans and Las Vegas growing up but she returned to New Orleans, her dad’s hometown and the city where he’s buried, in 2011 to open the new Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. She plays there every Friday night except when she’s on the road.
“It’s a great venue,” she says. “My dad played there when I was a little girl, so it’s a great experience for me. Every weekend is different … I get lots of stories about my dad.”
It’s the stories audience members share that inspired Prima to put together her show.
“It started with a short 20-minute tribute to dad and afterwards I’d get swamped by people who came up to me with stories,” she explains. “Everybody has their favorite song … ‘I Wanna Be Like You,’ from ‘The Jungle Book’ — I love singing that one, and ‘Just a Gigolo.’ I enjoy singing them all, I really do.”
Like her father, Prima embraces her Italian-American roots.
“He sang Italian-American songs when it wasn’t popular to perform them. I’m proud to carry on this tradition; it was important to my dad and it’s important to me,” she says. “I enjoy playing Italian-American festivals … it’s a joy to unite the Italian-American community.”
Prima’s show isn’t all her dad’s music. It also includes “Starting Something,” a song she wrote with husband Tim Fahey for the album by the same name.
“We came here (to New Orleans) andstarted all over,” she says. “I’ve always felt like New Orleans was my home. The song is really heartfelt.”