Remembering Art Neville

December 17, 1937 – July 22, 2019

 

A tribute to the keyboardist-singer and bandleader

New Orleans keyboardist and singer Art Neville passed away on July 21, 2019 at the age of 81 after a decade of gradually declining health.

Arthur Lanon Neville was born on December 17, 1937 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Early on he was inspired by New Orleans r&b and doo-wop groups, joining the Hawketts in 1953 and the following year recording “Mardi Gras Mambo” with the group, a tune that became one of his trademark songs.

After serving six years in the Navy, he recorded several singles that were New Orleans r&b hits including “Cha Dooky Doo” and “All These Things.”

He led Art Neville & the Neville Sounds in the mid-1960s; the group became the house band for Allen Toussaint’s recording studio, recording with many top New Orleans artists and helping to define the musical style of the era.

In 1968 the band was renamed the Meters, having hits with “Hey Pocky A-Way,” “Fire On The Bayou,” “People Say” and “Africa,” and touring with the Rolling Stones before breaking up.

Art Neville and his younger brothers Charles, Aaron and Cyril accompanied their uncle Big Chief George “Jolly” Landry” on the 1976 album The Wild Tchoupitoulas and then formed their own group, the Neville Brothers.

The Neville Brothers became a fixture in New Orleans as one of the popular and influential bands, developing their own soulful and funky style, recording popular albums (including Yellow Moon), and becoming unofficial ambassadors for New Orleans music.

The band remained very active until recording their last studio album in 2004, performing concerts until 2012 and having a few reunions in later years; Charles Neville passed away in April 2018.

Here are the Neville Brothers in prime form at Tipitina’s in New Orleans on May 4, 1991 performing “Brother John,” “Iko Iko,” “Jambalaya On The Bayou,” and “Do You Want To Dance” with Art Neville on the keyboards.

-Scott Yanow

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