Remembering New Orleans Legend Allen Toussaint November 10, 2015 08:30


Photo by Chris Granger: The Times-Picayune

Reports overnight from Spain tell us that New Orleans music legend Allen Toussaint has died at the age of 77.  Toussaint was on tour in Madrid, and suffered a heart attack shortly after his performance. The legendary songwriter, producer, arranger, and performer was widely considered as one of the most influential figures in New Orleans music. 

Many of Toussaint's songs became familiar through versions by other musicians, including "Working in the Coal Mine", "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley", "I'll Take a Melody," "Southern Nights," "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky," "Ride Your Pony," "Fortune Teller," "Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)," "Get Out of My Life, Woman" and "Mother-in-Law."  Toussaint’s' touch as a producer and arranger had tremendous range, including legendary artists such as: Paul McCartney, Joe Cocker, Dr. John, Aaron Neville, Art Neville, The Meters, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, and many more.

Toussaint was credited with grooming legendary New Orleans funk group, The Meters.  The four-piece served as the house band at Sanu Enterprises, Toussaint's record label, before achieving their own worldwide fame in 1973.  He later built Sea-Saint Studio with his fellow New Orleans R&B/Funk legend, Marshall Sehorn.  The studio would attract the likes of Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer, and Patti LaBelle.  LaBelle recorded the hit song "Lady Marmalade" at Sea-Saint in 1974. 

While Toussaint was regarded with the highest praise as a songwriter, producer, arranger, he had little to no interest in performing early on.  He much more preferred to write and work for other artists, who he claimed gave him more inspiration than he himself.  This all changed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Toussaint relocated to New York City.  After much notable collaboration, including working with Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello, he began releasing albums of purely original work and began performing solo much more often.  Already a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2013.  Later that year, Tulane University named Toussaint an honorary doctor, alongside the Dalai Lama and Dr. John.

Toussaint's influence on New Orleans and American music cannot be overstated. He was a legend in every sense of the word, and his impact will be forever seen and heard in the music he created.

Etta James, Dr. John, and Allen Toussaint - "Groove Me"

Allen Toussaint - "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley"