Art Neville, New Orleans Funk Legend and 'The Meters' Singer, Dead at 81
Art Neville, the New Orleans funk legend whose work includes co-founding three great bands, died on Monday, June 22, 2019. He was 81.
Neville’s longtime manager, Kent Sorrell, confirmed the news to PEOPLE in a statement, revealing that the singer “passed away peacefully this morning at home with his wife, Lorraine, by his side.”
A cause of death for the widely acclaimed funk master was not immediately available, but according to The Guardian, his health had been on a steady decline since suffering a stroke and complications from back surgery in 2001.
Neville’s legacy includes a career of over five decades and his contributions towards establishing three New Orleans-based bands: The Neville Brothers, The Meters and The Funky Meters.
During his lifetime, Neville was a recipient of three Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, and an NAACP Image Award in 2006.
Shocked and heartbroken to hear of the great Art Neville’s passing. What a magnificent artist and person, and a good friend for a long time. My condolences to all his family and let us treasure his memory and music forever. -- Bonniehttps://t.co/dJSmDgtAfj pic.twitter.com/FB6I5DO2th— Bonnie Raitt (@TheBonnieRaitt) July 23, 2019
HIS LOVE FOR MUSIC
New Orleans-born Neville developed an interest in music from a young age, drawing inspiration from singing greats while working at a record store back in the day.
Names like Clyde McPhatter’s Drifters, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, and the Orioles and the Clovers, meant a lot to a young Neville at the time as he absorbed all he could from their music.
This has been a devastating year for New Orleans music—we've lost Dr. John, Dave Bartholomew and now Art Neville. A whole generation is passing away, and along with it a tradition that can't be replaced. pic.twitter.com/022DuCNsVG— Ted Gioia (@tedgioia) July 22, 2019
In 1953, while in high school, Neville joined the Hawketts, with whom he recorded the classic 1954 hit “Mardi Gras Mambo.” He would later lead the group before forming another band, Art Neville & the Neville Sounds, in the mid-60s. By 1968, however, the band changed its name to The Meters.
The Meters scored evergreen tunes like “Look-Ka Py Py” and “Cissy Strut” and went on to open for the Rolling Stones during their Tour of the Americas in 1975.
I don’t usually post when someone passes away, but the passing of Art Neville is hitting me harder than usual. He was such a kind-hearted man. The pinnacle of my entire career was sharing the stage with him. Losing him is losing an icon and I’m devastated. #RIPArt pic.twitter.com/6MkCb0oEYp— Marc Broussard (@MarcBroussard) July 22, 2019
SINGING WITH FAMILY
Neville’s productive time with The Meters came to an end in the mid-70s when he joined his brothers – Aaron, Charles, and Cyril – in the recording session of “Wild Tchoupitoulas,” a Mardi Gras Indian group led by their uncle, George Landry.
The collaboration heralded the birth of The Neville Brothers, where Neville performed for many years, contributing to the success of their 1989 gold-certified album “Yellow Moon.”
The Meters previously disbanded in 1980 but reunited in 1989, ultimately changing their name to The Funky Meters in the mid-90s. The renowned entertainer continued to tour with The Funky Meters until late last year.
ART NEVILLE THE ICON
Neville is survived by his wife, Lorraine, and three children: son Ian and daughters Amelia and Arthel. He shared Arthel with his first wife, Doris. Following Neville’s death, Louisiana governor John Edwards said in a statement:
“Louisiana lost an icon today. Whether it was singing with the Neville Brothers or mamboing with The Meters, Art Neville took the unique sound of New Orleans and played it for the world to enjoy.”
And now the parade of huge losses in NOLA music continues--RIP the heart and soul of 2 great bands, Art Neville. Some parade--no throws.— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) July 22, 2019
Rest in peace, Art Neville.
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