He was The Dean, period.
By Fred Mills
Allen Toussaint, known worldwide as The Dean of New Orleans Music Scene, died yesterday, Nov. 10, while on tour in Spain, following an early morning heart attack. The musical legend and piano virtuoso was 77.
According to New Orleans’ Times-Picayune paper, “Madrid emergency services spokesman Javier Ayuso said rescue workers were called to Mr. Toussaint’s hotel early Tuesday morning and managed to revive him after he suffered a heart attack. But Ayuso said Mr. Toussaint stopped breathing during the ambulance ride to a hospital and efforts to revive him again were unsuccessful.”
A native son of New Orleans, Toussaint got his start as a teenager in NOLA R&B nightclubs, going on to work as a songwriter and producer, crafting hits for everyone from Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Dow and Irma Thomas to Al Hirt, Herb Alpert and Glen Campbell as well as performing himself to international acclaim and working with the likes of The and The Meters. His compositions were covered by a who’s-who of stars, among them the Yardbirds, DEVO, the Rolling Stones, Labelle and scores more.
“Last year, Allen was honored with a NOLA Legends Award for his part in creating the history and shaping the future of New Orleans,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement released Tuesday morning, reports the Times-Picayune. “He was an inspiring, prolific songwriter and performer whose unmistakable sound has forever defined our city’s unique cultural heritage.
“He was a true ambassador of our city who carried our spirit everywhere he went. The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever,” Landrieu said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very difficult time of grief.”
Memorial and funeral arrangements are tba. Meanwhile, the good folks over at long-running PBS music showcase program Austin City Limits they have, for a limited time, re-posted the Toussaint episode that originally aired in 2010. Joined by a crack ensemble of musicians that included son Clarence Toussaint on percussion, it featured a killer setlist that’s a virtual Toussaint—and New Orleans music—tutorial.
Party Goin’ On
MEDLEY: Certain Girl / Mother-in-Law / Fortune Teller / Workin’ in a Coal Mine
St. James Infirmary
We Are American / Yes We Can
Git Out My Life Woman
That performance says acres more than I could ever write about the man, so check it out pronto while it is still active online.
Photo Credit: ACL/Scott Newton