A Rockapaedia Obituary
Bands: The Neville Brothers, The Meters
Art Neville died aged eighty-one on 22nd July 2019, after some years of failing health. Art was survived by his wife Lorraine and three children: Arthel, Ian, and Amelia.
Art Neville grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A. where he was the son of Amelia and Arthur Neville Snr. He began playing piano and performed with his brothers at an early age. He was influenced by the R&B styles of James Booker, Bill Doggett, Booker T. Jones, Lloyd Glenn and Professor Longhair. In 1954 the band, The Hawketts, recorded "Mardi Gras Mambo" with Art Neville on vocals. The song gained popularity and became a New Orleans carnival anthem. The band toured with Larry Williams. Art Neville performed regularly in New Orleans, joined the U.S. Navy in 1958, and returned to music in 1962. He released several singles as a lead artist in the 1950s and 1960s.
In early the 1960s Art Neville formed the Art Neville Sounds. The band included Aaron Neville, Cyril Neville, George Porter, Leo Nocentelli, and Ziggy Modeliste. Shortly after, Aaron and Cyril left the group to form their own band. The remaining four members continued playing. The band backed up many notable musicians such as Lee Dorsey, Betty Harris and The Pointer Sisters. The band had a strong sense of groove and unlike traditional groups each instrument was free to lead and go anywhere musically. Over time the band's style came to represent New Orleans funk.
In the late 1960s the band changed its name to The Meters and released three instrumental albums. Early on, compositions were through live improvisation, however this changed in the early 1970s. The Meters released five more albums and disbanded in late 1970s due to financial, managerial and artistic factors. The Meter's musical style emphasized rhythm over melody and had a lasting impact on upcoming musical styles such as hip-hop as well as jam bands .
In 1978 Art Neville and his brothers Cyril, Aaron and Charles formed The Art Neville Brothers. Previously, the brothers had worked on The Wild Tchoupitoulas album. The group's debut album, titled The Art Neville Brothers, was released in 1978. The group released several albums throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including Fiyo on the Bayou and Yellow Moon, and an album in 2004. During this period, Art Neville performed several shows with the original Meters bandmates including a 1989 reunion at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Following that performance, Art Neville, Porter, Nocentelli and Russell Batiste formed The Funky Meters. The lineup changed in 1994 with Brian Stoltz replacing Nocentelli on guitar. Art Neville performed concurrently with both The Art Neville Brothers and The Funky Meters.
In a 1995 interview, Art Neville spoke about the joy of live improvisation. He said "The best part, to me, is when the rhythm just evolves into some other stuff." Art Neville received a Grammy in 1989 with The Art Neville Brothers for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. He received a Grammy in 1996 with various artists for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in "SRV Shuffle", a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
In December 2018, Art Neville announced his retirement after more than six decades in the music business.
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