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Art “Poppa Funk” Neville, a founding member of the legendary New Orleans groups The Meters and The Neville Brothers, died Monday, July 22, at the age 81 after years of declining health, sources close to the singer/keyboardist’s family tell The Times-Picayune.
Kent Sorrell, Neville’s longtime manager, told the newspaper that Art passed away peacefully “at home with his adoring wife Lorraine by his side.”
Neville recorded a variety of R&B singles in the 1950s and early ’60s, and by the middle of the latter decade he’d formed a band called The Neville Sounds, which included bassist George Porter Jr., guitarist Leo Nocentelli and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste.
The group began working as house band at producer Allen Toussaint‘s recording studio, and in 1968 they rechristened themselves The Meters.
The Meters recorded with such artists as Lee Dorsey, Dr. John and Labelle, and also scored their own hits on the R&B charts in the late 1960s. In the early ’70s, Art’s young brother Cyril joined the band as a percussionist and singer. In 1975 and ’76, The Meters toured as an opening act with The Rolling Stones.
In 1977, Art and Cyril left the group to form The Neville Brothers with their siblings Aaron and Charles. The band reached the height of its popularity with the 1989 album Yellow Moon, which sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.S.
In 1990, The Neville Brothers won a Best Pop Instrumental Performance Grammy for their song “Healing Chant.” Art also won a Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy in 1997 for his contributions to a song titled “SRV Shuffle.”
The Meters re-formed in the late 1980s, and after undergoing some lineup changes, renamed themselves The Funky Meters. Until last year, Art continued to play with that group and, occasionally, with the original Meters lineup.
The Meters were honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award last year, but Art was unable to attend the ceremony.
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