I hate telling my friends goodbye, but it’s part of life: another one of my generation’s music icons has passed away: Art Neville.
I’m sure there will be more; it’s the nature of humanity, to pass away from this very short earthly life. It’s a comfort for people to think that their loved ones will be waiting for them on a heavenly plane when their fragile human bodies can no longer function. It makes no difference how strong you are, how beloved, how healthy, how despised: we are all going to shuffle off this mortal coil. Those of us remaining behind are of course devastated by the loss of our families and friends. It’s hard to process, really, and when you lose a loved one, to disease, age or some other way, it leaves you more than a little numb at first, then sad, then empty, then resigned.
Which is kind of the way I feel right now, learning of Art Neville’s death. He was a wonderful musician, an innovator, a steady hand, a good father and friend, and the pater familias not only of his own family, but of thousands of young people who loved his music and who will honor him by emulating his grooves far into the future.
We usually remember our loved ones with photos, movies, and now even videos. But we are so blessed to also be able to remember great musicians by the recorded music they’ve left behind. Art will be remembered not just for his teenage voice on “Mardi Gras Mambo,” but for his work with the Meters, the Neville Brothers, the funky Meters, and the countless songs he wrote, contributed to, and performed over six decades of making music. Every time you listen to a funky tune, you can thank Art. Because he was an originator, and he was not only a killer musician; he was a fine, loving and kind person.
Our hearts go out to his family, his friends, his wife and his kids, and his extended family of fans all over the world. Art, you will be missed, but you’ll live on as long as there’s music coming from New Orleans.