Art Neville was a keyboardist and singer who was a founding member of the Neville Brothers and the Meters. Known as “Poppa Funk,” Neville was a staple of the New Orleans music scene, who helped shape the city’s signature sound. The Meters, formed in 1965, were among the originators of funk, performing their own songs as well as backing artists including Lee Dorsey, Robert Palmer, and Dr. John. They were honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. In 1977, Neville founded the Neville Brothers along with his brothers Aaron, Charles, and Cyril. Their notable songs include “Sister Rosa” and “Healing Chant,” which won a Grammy Award in 1989. In later years, Neville formed the Funky Meters along with some members of the original group. He continued playing with them until his retirement in late 2018.
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Died: July 22, 2019 (Who else died on July 22?)
Details of death: Died at home in New Orleans after a period of declining health at the age of 81.
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Hurricane Katrina: The Nevilles were New Orleans natives, and all four brothers were living there when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. Neville’s house was both damaged by the storm and later looted and vandalized. Like many New Orleans residents, he had to leave the city, and he said he’d never live there again—until he visited several months later and found he couldn’t stay away. “I knew as soon as I stepped foot in New Orleans, I’d be here to stay,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006. Though his brothers settled in other area, Neville moved into a home just down the street from his damaged one, and he stayed in New Orleans the rest of his life.
Notable quote: “I didn’t make a lot of money. Maybe we did make it and didn’t get it. I don’t know. But it don’t matter. My life is happy, I’m happy, the people closest to me are happy. Don’t worry about the other part.” —From a 2013 interview with the Times-Picayune
What people said about him: “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.” —Musician Marc Broussard
“Everyone who loves New Orleans music, funk music, good music, and music in general is in mourning. Art Neville is a pioneer and this is a massive loss. My sincerest and deepest condolences go out to the family.” —DJ Soul Sister
“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. ” —Author Ted Gioia
“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.” —Actor Harry Shearer
Full obituary: Nola.com