Charles Neville Dies at 79


Cyril (left), Aaron, Charles and Art Neville, of the Neville Brothers, pose in a publicity portrait. Charles died on April 26 at age 79.

(Photo: Guzman/A&M Records/DownBeat Archives)

Charles Neville, the saxophonist who achieved fame alongside his siblings in the Neville Brothers, died on April 26. He was 79. In January, the New Orleans native revealed that he had been battling pancreatic cancer.

His brother Aaron, a renowned vocalist, paid tribute on Facebook. Here are selected excerpts from his post: “My dear brother Charlie the horn man, just want you to know that if I would’ve had the choice of picking my brothers, I would definitely choose you. You were a great brother. You’ll always be in my heart and soul, like a tattoo. You helped to mold me into who I am today and I’ll always be thankful. I’ll always see your special infectious smile on the stage next to me, it would always give me a smile. …

“I know you have a spot in the heavenly band next to James Booker, James Black, Herbert Hardesty, Fats Domino, Johnny Adams [and] all the jazz bebop players who you turned me on to. Dizzy, Charlie Parker, Miles and the list goes on. …

“So dear horn man you take your well deserved rest with God in Heaven and play with the heavenly band. I know that you’re whole again.”

The Neville Brothers won a Grammy for the 1989 track “Healing Chant” in the category Best Pop Instrumental Performance. The track appears on the band’s album Yellow Moon, on which Charles contributed saxophone, percussion and vocals.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which opens today, is an event with which the Neville family has been synonymous for decades.

This year’s festival—which runs through May 6—will, undoubtedly, include various tributes to a member of one of the most iconic families not only in New Orleans, but in all of popular music. DB

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