Art Neville of the Meters and the Neville Brothers Dies at 81

Art Neville, one of the key figures of New Orleans music as a member of the Meters and later the Neville Brothers, died Monday. He was 81.

Neville’s manager, Kent Sorrell, confirmed the death. “It was peaceful,” Sorrell told Nola.com. “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.”

The cause of death was not immediately released, but Neville had retired from music last year, suffering from complications from back surgery and other health issues. Although he had performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as recently as 2017 (pictured above), Neville was not able to attend the ceremony last year when the Meters received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy.

When Neville announced his retirement in December of last year, it was on the 100th birthday of one of his piano-playing heroes, Professor Longhair.

With the keyboard-playing Art as one-fourth of the sibling outfit, the Neville Brothers reached a commercial peak with the 1987 release of “Yellow Moon,” atmospherically produced by Daniel Lanois, which included the Grammy-winning instrumental “Healing Chant.” From their first album in 1978 through their swan song in 2004, the Neville Brothers were a popular fixture among the jam-band rock crowd as well as aficionados of funk, and, along with Dr. John, the popular face of New Orleans music, traditionally closing out Jazzfest every year.

But it was with the group that preceded and eventually followed the Neville Brothers, the Meters, that the musician had his greatest impact. The group, which lasted from 1964-77 (and reunited for selected dates in the 2010s), was considered an essential pioneer of funk and recorded such popular favorites as “Cissy Strut” and  “Fire On The Bayou.”

As a pianist, the New Orleans-born Neville was influenced by such Louisiana progenitors as Professor Longhair. He was still in high school when he had a hit as the lead singer of the Hawkettes with “Mardi Gras Mambo” in the late ’50s. More than six decades later, the song continues to be a Carnival anthem.

In 1962, after he returned from a stint in the Navy, he formed the Neville Sounds, which eventually transformed into the Meters.

Neville later won a Grammy in 1996 for best rock instrumental with the Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute “SRV Shuffle,” in collaboration with Buddy Guy, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, and Jimmie Vaughan & Robert Cray.

Among Neville’s children is Arthel Neville, a news anchor for Fox News and a fixture of the E! network and “Extra” in the 1990s.

Art’s death follows that of brother Charles Neville in April 2018. The surviving members of the Neville Brothers are Aaron and Cyril. Neville’s death is just the latest in a series of losses for the New Orleans community after the recent passings of Dr. John and Dave Bartholomew.


More Music

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

    'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Music: How the Italian Tuba March Found Its Way to Larry David

    When “Curb Your Enthusiasm” returns for its much-anticipated 10th season it does so with it a musical theme that’s a prime example of recognizable sonic branding and has become synonymous with comedy in our complicated times: “Frolic” by composer Luciano Michelini. But surprisingly, this comic march for tuba, mandolin and piano wasn’t specifically written for [...]

  • Kacey Musgraves, from left, Reba McEntire,

    How a Twitter Joke About Women at Country Radio Reignited a Firestorm (Column)

    Do you remember the classic Bee Gees song that goes, “I started a joke… that started the whole world crying”? (It’s okay if you don’t.) That’s how I felt this week after realizing that a sarcastic tweet I’d typed out in a half-minute at a stoplight led to a social media firestorm, then a tempest of [...]

  • Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile backstageAmericana

    Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile Set as Dynamic Duo for Grammys

    Country legend Tanya Tucker and her producer, Brandi Carlile, will perform together on the Grammys  in one week, both singers announced on their respective social media accounts Sunday. Wrote Carlile: “Let’s. do. this.” (One of the first responses on Carlile’s Instagram came from a fellow Seattle musician, Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron: “Hell yes!”) “I wanted you [...]

  • Billie EilishiHeartRadio ALTer EGO, Show, The

    Billie Eilish, Coldplay, the Black Keys Rock iHeartRadio AlterEgo (Photos)

    iHeartRadio celebrated the alternative stars of its airwaves on Saturday night with AlterEgo, inviting the likes of Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Blink-182 and the Black Keys to Los Angeles’ the Forum. Eilish kicked off the show — a solid strategy in getting the younger set to get in on time — with hits like “Bad Guy,” [...]

  • Singer David Olney

    Singer David Olney Dies During Performance at Florida's 30A Festival

    Singer-songwriter David Olney has died at age 71, after falling silent and dropping his head in the midst of a performance at the 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida Saturday night. Some news reports said he “collapsed” on stage, but that isn’t quite true: Olney simply became still on his stool, leading some audience members and [...]

  • Paradigm Agency Cuts 30 Staff Positions,

    Paradigm Agency Cuts 30 Staff Positions, Mostly in Music

    Paradigm has made a significant cut to its staff, laying off about 30 agents and support staff or 4% of its employees, Variety has confirmed. Sources said most of the layoffs were in the music area at the agency and took place Friday.. Paradigm, which had about 700 employees prior to the layoffs, had no [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content