They called him “Poppa Funk,” and it’s with sadness that we report the passing of Art Neville at age 81. A singer and keyboardist, Art was a founding member of the New Orleans music legends The Meters and along with his brothers Aaron, Cyril, and Charles, best known as the Neville Brothers. NOLA.com reports, according to his manager Kent Sorrell, that Neville “passed away at home with his adoring wife Lorraine by his side. He toured the world how many times, but he always came home to Valence Street.”
Art Neville was born in New Orleans in 1937, and began playing music as a teenager with The Hawkettes, who recorded a Mardi Grass classic, “Mardi Gras Mambo.” In 1965 Art formed The Meters, New Orleans’ premiere funk band, with George Porter, Jr., Leo Nocentelli, and Zigaboo “Ziggy” Modeliste. In addition to recording their own albums, The Meters performed on countless recording sessions for Allen Toussaint, Lee Dorsey, Dr. John, Robert Palmer, and others. That’s them playing on Labelle’s hit song, “Lady Marmalade,” Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time,” and “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley” by Robert Palmer. When The Meters broke up in 1977, Art formed The Neville Brothers with his brothers.
In December, 2018, Neville was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and announced his retirement from music after more than 60 years. From The Meters to the Neville Brothers, Art’s musicianship was crucial to the sound of New Orleans’ funk and R&B, and he leaves behind so many classic songs including “Hey Pocky Way,” “Cissy Strut,” “People Say,” “Fire On The Bayou,” “Africa,” and many more.
Below, watch a couple videos from The Meters and The Neville Brothers and a Spotify playlist curated by WXPN’s Julian Booker.
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