The Meters’ Co-Founder Art Neville Has Passed Away At The Age Of 81

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Legendary Funk and Soul musician Art Neville has died this morning (July 22). A co-founder of The Meters and The Neville Brothers, the keyboardist and vocalist known as “Poppa Funk” was 81 years old. According to the musician’s family, he was in declining health over recent years.

“It was peaceful,” said Kent Sorrell, Neville’s longtime manager in a statement published by The Times-Picayune. “He passed away at home with his adoring wife Lorraine by his side.” Although Neville battled lingering complications from back surgery and suffered at least one stroke, he performed as recently as 2017.

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From the same Calliope Houses as Master P and other members of the No Limit Records movement, Art Neville’s music impacted Hip-Hop and Rap music. The Navy veteran headed Art Neville & the Neville Sounds, a 1960s New Orleans-based act. Allen Toussaint would eventually recruit the group to be his studio band. They would go on to work with Dr. John (who died earlier this year), Lee Dorsey, Labelle, and others.

In 1968, the group was rebranded as The Meters. Neville played organ on the group which fused Funk, Soul, and other genres into its rich grooves. 1969’s eponymous album and 1970’s Look-Ka Py Py became a source of samples for the likes of N.W.A., A Tribe Called Quest, Scarface, Ultramagnetic MC’s, Compton’s Most Wanted, UGK, and 2 Live Crew. Earlier Meters records have become the basis for mainstream-embraced R&B too, including hits by Amerie and Musiq Soulchild, respectively.

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Neville would eventually recruit his brother Cyril to join The Meters for a series of records in the mid-1970s, including Trick Bag, which features another sample favorite “Find Yourself.”

In this period, Art and Cyrille launched The Neville Brothers with brothers Aaron and Charles. That group, which found success during the 1980s, earned Art one of his two Grammy Awards.

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One year ago this month, The Meters received a Lifetime Achievement Award at a Los Angeles, California ceremony. Art Neville was not able to attend.