the litany of losses that shocked New Orleans in the early summer of 2019 may not have culminated with the death of Art Neville— because who knows what might happen next—but it certainly feels like the last lines of a book that is such a great story you don’t want it to end. that story, of course, is the story of how New Orleans musicians took their legacy of jazz, blues and gospel music and transformed it into the ecstatic music of r&B, rock ’n’ roll and funk, elements that are all still with us, but are increasingly being subsumed into the culture of the 21st century Global village.
Unlike the other giants of this era, Art was not a retired elder or ghostly presence but a constant neighbor. he was part of the fabric of New Orleans life. he didn’t move from the city after Katrina, but returned to valence street, the Nevilles’ old neighborhood. his music was and is very much alive, kept active by his younger brothers Aaron and Cyril and a host of younger relatives. he was the patriarch of the Neville family, a New Orleans institution that shows no signs of running out of steam. in that sense Art’s passing does not seem as much like the end of an era that Dr. John’s and Dave Bartholomew’s did. his spirit is still thriving in the work of his relatives, a legacy that he sacrificed so many things in his life to ensure.
From the very start Art always made music with his brothers whenever he could. he br