New Orleans great Allen Toussaint dies at 77

Musician, arranger, bandleader and song writer Allen Toussaint, a revered and iconic character from the New Orleans music scene has died suddenly in Madrid while on his European tour.

Musician, arranger, bandleader and song writer Allen Toussaint, a revered and iconic character from the New Orleans music scene has died aged 77. He was in the middle of a European tour, enthusing about dates on his own Facebook page, when he suddenly died in Madrid on Monday November 9. He was due to play the EFG London Jazz Festival this Sunday November 15.

Toussaint was an inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. He was the soul of New Orleans R&B for decades and President Barack Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts in 2012.

His loud and boldly mixed outfits and Rolls Royce were legendary in New Orleans where he was much in demand right up to the present day as arranger and guest on countless albums. 

Recent music collaborations have included British musicians Elvis Costello on ‘The River in Reverse,’ an album about Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, and actor Hugh Laurie’s New Orleans inspired album ‘Let Them Talk.’ More recently he arranged the horns for New Orleans British blues man Jon Cleary’s album ’GoGo Juice,’ much featured on Jazz FM.

Allen Toussaint’s songs became famous through other World-renowned bands and musicians recordings. Songs like ‘Working in the Coal Mine’ and ’Night People’ by Lee Dorsey, also once recorded by Robert Palmer, ‘Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)’ recorded by Frankie Miller, ‘Mother-in-Law’ and ‘Here Come The Girls’ by Ernie K. Doe and ‘Get Out of My Life, Woman’ from Joe Williams. He also produced the big hit for soul group Labelle called ‘Lady Marmalade’ in 1974. His own a solo career peaked in the 1970s with the release of his album ‘Southern Nights,’ the title song becoming a hit for himself and country music star Glen Campbell. Jon Cleary recently covered the song again on his album ‘Occapella’ with a beautiful haunting atmosphere that paid tribute to Toussaint’s glorious minimalist original.

Together with record producer Marshall Sehorn, Toussaint operated a recording studio in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans called Sea-Saint. In 1975 Paul and Linda McCartney and their band Wings recorded their album ‘Venus and Mars’ there. He also penned the song ‘Pain In My Heart’ recorded by the Rolling Stones on their second album ‘The Rolling Stones No. 2’.

After his European tour Allen Toussaint was due to play a benefit gig on December 8 for New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, an organisation he founded thirty years ago, with Paul Simon.

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