Art Neville still rooted in New Orleans
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Art Neville isn’t entirely steady on his feet, but he’s the last man standing on Valence Street. He still rocks the same Uptown block that nurtured the Neville Brothers, New Orleans’ first family of funk.
“I don’t intend to go nowhere, either,” Art said this week. “I got a spot in my backyard where I can be buried.”
His brothers are long gone: Charles to Massachusetts, Cyril to Slidell, Aaron to New York. Aaron not only left the neighborhood – he’s also left the Neville Brothers, to focus on his solo career.
Art, Cyril and Charles will carry on as The Nevilles, a multi-generational ensemble featuring Art’s son Ian on guitar and Aaron’s son Ivan on keyboards, plus longtime Neville Brothers drummer “Mean” Willie Green and bassist Tony Hall.
The Nevilles make their hometown debut for Art’s 75th birthday celebration at Tipitina’s on Saturday, Jan. 26. The set list will likely skip the ballads that were Aaron’s specialty in favor of funkier nuggets from the Neville Brothers repertoire.
Across nearly six decades as an icon of New Orleans music, Art has led the Hawketts, Art Neville & the Neville Sounds, The Meters, the Neville Brothers, the Funky Meters, and now The Nevilles. In recent years, he has soldiered on through various ailments that have made walking difficult. When out and about, he relies on a wheelchair, walker or walking stick. In the fall, he was hospitalized after suffering what appeared to be a minor stroke.
But his humor and determination are undiminished. He works with physical therapists several times a week to improve his strength and mobility. And as soon as he’s seated at a keyboard, the aches, and decades, drop away.
He jokes that he’ll continue to perform even if he must be carted onstage via gurney: “You can bring me there in the ambulance, roll me onto the stage, give me a microphone, and a mirror where I can see the people.
“Man, look. I’ve been doing this all my life. I enjoy it. Even the bad parts of it, the parts I didn’t like…I found out that’s the way things go sometimes. You’ve got to go along with them.”
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