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Veteran soul and funk star Art Neville dies at 81

He was a member of influential New Orleans act the Neville Brothers.

Art Neville (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen, File)
Art Neville (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen, File)

Art Neville, a member of one of New Orleans’ most storied musical families the Neville Brothers, has died at the age of 81.

His manager Kent Sorrell said: “Art ‘Poppa Funk’ Neville passed away peacefully this morning at home with his adoring wife, Lorraine, by his side.”

The cause of death was not immediately available but Neville had battled a number of health issues including complications from back surgery.

The Neville brothers spent some of their childhood in the now demolished Calliope housing project in New Orleans and some at a family home in uptown New Orleans. They started singing as children but then went their separate ways in the 1950s and 1960s.

Art Neville during the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Dave Martin/AP)

It was not until 1977 that the brothers finally got together again and in 1978 they recorded their first Neville Brothers album.

The other members of the Neville Brothers included Charles, Cyril and Aaron. Charles died in 2018.

For years, the Neville Brothers were the closing act at the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the four brothers — like many New Orleans natives — were scattered across the country while the city struggled to recover. They returned to anchor the festival in 2007.

“This is how it should be,” Art Neville said during a news conference with festival organisers announcing their return to the annual event. “We’re a part of Jazz Fest.”

In 1954 Neville was in high school when he sang the lead on the Hawketts’ remake of a country song called Mardi Gras Mambo. He told radio show American Routes that he was recruited by the Hawketts.

“I don’t know how they found out where I lived,” he said in the interview. “But they needed a piano player. And they came up to the house and they asked my mother and father could I go.”

More than 60 years later, the song is still a staple of the carnival season, but that longevity never translated into financial success for Neville who received no money for it.

“It made me a big shot around school,” he said with a laugh during a 1993 interview.

In 1968, Art and Cyril joined four New Orleans musicians to form The Meters, a funk band often cited by others as a major influence.

Neville announced his retirement in December.



From Belfast Telegraph