Art “Poppa Funk” Neville spent a half-century shaping the sound of New Orleans music. The keyboardist and singer was a founding member of the Meters and the Neville Brothers, and was the voice of the enduring Carnival season anthem “Mardi Gras Mambo.”
In the latest blow for a New Orleans music community that had already lost Dr. John and Dave Bartholomew this summer, Neville died Monday after years of declining health. He was 81.
“It was peaceful,” said Kent Sorrell, Neville’s longtime manager. “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.”
Arthur Lanon Neville was born on December 17, 1937, the same day as New Orleans piano legend James Booker. As a boy, he lived in the Calliope housing development and Uptown on Valence Street. He was drawn to the Orioles, the Drifters and other doo-wop groups, as well as the piano-driven music of Professor Longhair and Fats Domino.