In the last few days two more soul stalwarts have passed away – ART NEVILLE and LENNY PAKULA.
New Orleans icon, Neville died on Monday 22 July. He was aged 81 and his death was announced by his long-time manager, Kent Sorrell. No cause of death was given.
Every self-respecting funkster will know all about Art Neville. Born in 1937, Neville grew up in the Big Easy and his career began in the mid-50s when he joined the band the Hawketts on keys. Their song ‘Mardi Gras Mambo’ was a template for future New Orleans funk. After the Hawketts he worked with the Meters (alongside George Porter Jr., Leo Nocentelli and Zigaboo Modeliste). Their biggest hits were the much loved ‘Cissy Strut’, ‘Look-Ka-Py-Py’ and ‘Sophisticated Cissy.’ In 1977 he formed the Neville Brothers with his three siblings (Aaron, Charles and Cyril). They recorded prolifically for over 30 years; their most celebrated recording was ‘Yellow Moon’. The Funky Meters was Neville’s last band and included some members of the original group. Neville toured with The Funky Meters until late last year.
Art Neville won multiple Grammy Awards, including the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award, over the course of his more than 50-year career. It’s believed that he’d been in poor health for some time. He had suffered a stroke as well as complications from back surgery in 2001.
Maybe less well-known, Lenny Pakula was also an influential soul keyboardist. Born in Philadelphia, Lenny learned to play in the United States Naval School of Music before earning a living in the numerous Philly recording studios. He built up a close relationship with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who made him an integral part of their Philadelphia International sound. He played on countless hits on all the major Philly stars and also recorded in his own right as well as part of MFSB. His best known solo outing was ‘Mr Record Company Man’. In 2016, Lenny was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee as part of the Sigma Sound Rhythm Section.
Sadly in recent years Lenny has fallen on hard times. He was a diabetic and had lost his left leg to the disease. It is thought that he was homeless for some time, relying on the Aids For Friends charity to survive.
Lenny died on Friday 19 July. He was 73.