Neil Young in, Aretha Franklin out at Jazz Fest

Inaugural activities lead to singer's cancellation

Neil Young will join a slew of other first-time performers at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a bittersweet announcement given that the "Queen of Soul" canceled her coveted appearance.

Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis said Aretha Franklin's activities surrounding President Barack Obama's inauguration, scheduling and travel issues led to the cancellation.

"She decided not to do any more work for a while and we honor that," Davis said. "But, we definitely told her we want her next year. She's made it clear that New Orleans and the festival are important and that she would like to be a part of this and raising the spirit of New Orleans."

Landing Young was something organizers had been trying to do for years, Davis said. The rocker joins other first-timers Bon Jovi and Grammy winners Sugarland and Kings of Leon.

Davis said it's important for the festival, in its 40th year, to remain relevant and exciting.

"Particularly, because we are a heritage festival, we look at where we've been and where we're going. And that's reflected in our lineup," he said.

"The Dave Matthews Band, James Taylor, Earth, Wind and Fire, Etta James. These performers, over time, have become beloved by the festival. At the same time, the younger groups, Bon Jovi, Sugarland, Kings of Leon, they send a signal that our future is bright."

The Jazz Fest spans seven days over two weekends -- April 24 to 26 and April 30 to May 3.

Others slated to perform are the O'Jays, Cowboy Mouth, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Cocker, Wilco, Henry Butler, Erykah Badu, Bonnie Raitt, Allen Toussaint, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Trombone Shorty and Imagination Movers.

Like last year, the Neville Brothers will be the festival's closing act on May 3.