Legendary Musician Art Neville Dead At 81

Photo: Getty
How Did Art Neville Die? New Details On The Neville Brother And Legendary Musician's Death At 81

New Orleans music legend Art Neville has died at the age of 81. He passed away in his home in New Orleans, according to his family and his manager, according to Page Six. The keyboardist of the Meter and the Neville Brothers has been a performer since he was in high school in the 1940s. He continued to play even during his years of service in the Navy and only retired last year.

He is survived by second wife Lorraine and his two children, son Ian, and daughter Arthel. How did Art Neville die?

1. Early life

Arthur Neville, who would grow up to be the keyboardist, singer and songwriter known as "Poppa Funk" was born December 17, 1937 in New Orleans, a city he called home until his death. He was first influenced by the music of artists like Fats Domino and Professor Longhair, according to NPR. In high school he sang with a band known at the Hawkettes. He recorded a song with them called “Mardi Gras Mambo” when he was 17 and it quickly became a carnival standard. By the late 1950s, he had joined the Navy but continued to record music during his years of service in the 1960s. He had a band during those years called Art Neville and the Neville Sounds, which eventually changed their name to the Meters. The Meters gained a solid reputation and soon grabbed the attention of major industry players. The band toured both Europe and America with the Rolling Stones and played on a Paul McCartney album.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hata Toshiyuki (@hata_toshiyuki) on Jul 23, 2019 at 7:17am PDT

He started performing as a teen.

2. The Neville Brothers

By the late 1970s, Art teamed up with his brothers Aaron, a vocalist, and Cyril, a drummer, to form The Neville Brothers. The band became a cornerstone of New Orleans music and was such an institution in the city that the legendary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival closes out with a Neville Brothers set.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Greg Caz (@the_real_greg_caz) on Jul 23, 2019 at 8:54am PDT

The Neville Brothers performed for decades.

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3. Accolades

In 2018, the Grammys presented a lifetime achievement award to the Meters for “the founding fathers of funk ... Their trademark sound of syncopated layered percussion intertwined with gritty grooves on guitar, bass, and organ, blends funk, blues, and dance grooves with a New Orleans vibe that is regarded as one of the most influential in music history."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bonnie Raitt (@bonnieraittofficial) on Jul 22, 2019 at 4:41pm PDT

The Meters won a Lifetime Achievement Award.

4. Peaceful passing

Art had been performing with original Meters bassist George Porter Jr., and a former guitarist for the Neville Brothers, Brian Stoltz until he announced his retirement in December of 2018. The 81-year-old funk legend passed away quietly in his home, according to his long-time manager Kent Sorrell. "It was peaceful," said Sorrel. "He 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."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bonnie Raitt (@bonnieraittofficial) on Jul 22, 2019 at 4:41pm PDT

Bonnie Raitt shared her condolences with the Neville family.

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5. Brotherly love

In a long Facebook post, Art’s younger brother and musical partner Aaron Neville reminisced about their shared career. He recalls trying to sing like his brother saying “My big brother Artie / AKA Poppa Funk was the patriarch of the Neville tribe, big chief, a legend from way way back, my first inspiration. I would try and copy his style, his high natural tenor that only he could do.” 

He then went on to recall the acts they shared a bill with other the years, writing “We traveled over land and sea bringing our music to the world. We played with people like the Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Santana, Huey Lewis and the News, Tina Turner and many others. We went on the amnesty tour sponsored by the late great Bill Graham who opened doors for the Neville Brothers, our children and so many other folks. From the park bench in the Calliope to Valence St. in the 13th ward to parts unknown we brought our Music and inspiration to the world stage. We now can say that 88 keys were blessed by Poppa Funk. I know he’s in heaven with Mommee and Poppee, Big Chief, Cookie, Brother Charlie, Mac/Dr John, Allen Toussaint, and James Booker. So many great New Orleans musicians and singers are in the heavenly band now. I know they’re accepting him with open arms so he can take his rightful place as one of the greats. Artie Poppa Funk Neville you are loved dearly by everyone who knew you. Love always your lil’ big brother AARON.”

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He then asked for privacy for the family in their time of mourning.

Aaron Neville remembers his brother. 

6. Outpouring of support

People from the music industry have turned to social media to post memorials to the man known as Poppa Funk, according to JamBase. Bonnie Rait wrote: “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. -- Bonnie.”

Andres Osbourne remembered: "R.I.P. Art  We have lost one of the architects and originator of what the whole world affectionately calls, “New Orleans Music.” Huge influence on all of us. My deepest sympathy and love goes out to all the Neville’s and immediate friends and family. “

The mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, noted the passing of a hometown legend saying: “New Orleans has lost another legend. Art Neville was a founding father of New Orleans funk, and so much more. We are poorer for his passing, and richer for having known him. Generations of New Orleanians grew up on the sounds that Art Neville laid down over the decades. Art’s spirit lives on in his immediate and extended family: including his brothers, his son, daughter, and nephew. We know he’s up there now with his brother, Charles, creating a new kind of soul. May he rest in God’s perfect peace”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Anders Osborne (@andersosborne) on Jul 22, 2019 at 12:12pm PDT

Musicians have been posting memorials all day.

No plans for a memorial have been annouced at this time. 

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.