The Meters & Neville Brothers Keyboardist Art Neville 1937 – 2019
Famed keyboardist Art Neville has died at age 81. The co-founding member of The Meters and the Neville Brothers had withstood years of declining health leading to his death on Monday, a family source confirmed to NOLA.com.
“It was peaceful,” Kent Sorrell, Neville’s longtime manager told NOLA.com’s Keith Spera. “He passed away at home with his adoring wife Lorraine by his side.” The news of “Poppa Funk’s” passing comes seven months after he announced his retirement following an illustrious 65-year career.
Born Arthur Lanon Neville on December 17, 1937 in New Orleans, the acclaimed keyboardist began playing piano as a youngster and started to perform with his musical family shortly after learning the instrument. His influences included Professor Longhair, Booker T. Jones and James Booker. Art’s first taste of success came at just 17-years-old when his lead vocal on The Hawketts’ “Mardi Gras Mambo” helped score his high school band a hit. A stint in the U.S. Navy lasted from 1958 until he returned both to music and to his hometown in 1962 and soon after formed the Neville Sounds with brothers Aaron Neville and Cyril Neville as well as friends George Porter Jr., Leo Nocentelli and Zigaboo Modeliste.
The group eventually became known as The Meters and with a core lineup of Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Leo Nocentelli and Zigaboo Modeliste, the band helped pioneer funk music. The Meters both served as backing band for such artists as Professor Longhair, Dr. John and Robert Palmer and recorded eight albums worth of their own music between 1969 and 1977. “Cissy Strut,” “Fire On The Bayou,” “Hey Pocky A-Way” and “Funky Miracle” are among The Meters’ most beloved songs.
In 1978, Art formed The Neville Brothers with Cyril, Aaron and Charles Neville. The Neville Brothers toured with some of the greatest live acts of all-time including The Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Santana. Yellow Moon, the Nevilles’ 1989 album was the group’s biggest critical success. Art Neville went on to reunite with the members of The Meters in various incarnations. The longest lasting group was the funky METERS.
The original lineup of The Meters performed a handful of shows together in the 2010s including an appearance aboard Jam Cruise 15 in 2017 to celebrate their 50th anniversary. “Poppa Funk” hadn’t performed publicly since 2017 and was said to be in poor health. Art did not perform or attend a 2018 ceremony/concert in which The Meters were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy.