Remembering Allen Toussaint

Featured Image by Bryan Ledgard

On Tuesday, November 102015 the world of music said goodbye to a legendary songwriter, instrumental musician and producer in New Orleans icon and Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Allen Toussaint. Following a tour stop in Spain at the Teatro Lara in Madrid, Toussaint suffered a heart attack at his hotel from which he was resuscitated yet while being transported to the hospital he would succumb to another attack. One of the most influential musicians in history, Toussaint was born in New Orleans in 1938 and had already begun playing piano by age six on an upright had been sent to his family’s house from his aunt. His first break in the music business came in the late 1950’s when, as a teenager, Toussaint sat in at a recording session in place of another legendary New Orleans musician, Fats Domino. After a lifetime filled with his many successes, Toussaint would further go on to become one of the most active supporters in the revival of his hometown in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Toussaint was even slated to perform this December 8th with friend and fellow musical icon Paul Simon for a charity that he had helped found, the New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness.

While Toussaint is for many in music, a household name, there are many things interesting things that you may not know about him. Philadelphia musician Questlove, of The Roots, posted a heartfelt piece along with posts from numerous other artists in response to his loss paying their respects and many a homage to his many accolades. Questlove said of Toussaint: “He wrote some of your favorite music and you just didn’t know it… I can go on and on. Because his work goes on and on… His work will now speak for itself…”

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Man this hit home. Of all the cats that I never had a 1 on 1 convo w/ to pick their brain about their music experiences: this is numero uno. I don't want y'all thinkin' "this is just some old legend that passed away" naw. This dude wrote some of your favorite music & you just didn't know it. He effected SO many genres. That's how you know how potent and effective your art is: when you quietly change the scene w/o proper acknowledgement. If someone had the right to have KWest brag swag it was this man. But his humble quiet disposition wouldn't allow such a thing. His work will now speak for itself. Just take time to peep his work w #LeeDorsey (#GetOutMyLifeWoman #RideYourPony) some of the greatest clever pop tunes crafted. Hip hop heads still salivate over all #TheMeters tunes he produced & shot new energy into the culture once sampling #JamesBrown was becoming stale (#CissyStrut #LookKaPyPy #JustKissedMyBaby #OhCalcutta) then came a slew of artists in the 70s & 80s that took his work & breathed new life into his songs: #YesWeCanCan #LadyMarmalade #WorkingInACoalmine) —name em! His work was so powerful everyone from #PaulMccartney to #DrJohn to #EricClapton to #TheRollingStones to even #JayZ ("….dear god I wonder can you save me?"….that piano loop? #Toussaint all day) #Amerie's most banging joint? (A Toussaint production sample) at least 12 "Get Out My Life Woman" snares were like starch in hip hop's daily nutritional chart–meaning so there you barely notice it.—I can go on and on. Because his work goes on and on. You'll read better op-eds by professional journalists. Kinda hard to cram all of this hiding from trainer in the gym on iPhone. But i felt the need to write something. When I tag #LegacyGoals I mean it. Humble cat whose work spoke louder than he did. That's what we all need to learn from. Rest In Beats to the powerful #AllenToussaint

A post shared by Questlove Froman, (@questlove) on

These words ring true, as Toussaint was the genius behind many memorable songs including: “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Mother-in-Law,” “Fortune Teller,” “Southern Nights,” “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,” and “Get Out of My Life, Woman”… Much of Toussaint’s work has been covered by artists such as Jerry Garcia, Ringo Starr, Robert Palmer, Lee Dorsey, Herman’s Hermits, the Yardbirds, Glen Campbell, the Band and the Rolling Stones…

And he was the producer behind Patti Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade”…

LaBelle said this week that “Allen was a gentle giant! Perceptive, kind and always open to your input and feelings. He knew how to listen and (was) never offended… He also introduced me to shrimp sandwiches, which I still love today! I just can’t say enough good things about him!” She went on to say that she plans to sing “a special song” that Toussaint wrote for her at her next concert, entitled “Don’t Make Your Angel Cry”, as a an act of tribute.

Toussaint has continued to be remembered this week by many prominent members of the music industry following his passing, including artists such as Lenny Kravitz who said of Toussaint: “I’m still in shock and heartbroken after hearing of the news of the passing of my longtime friend, brother in music, teacher, mentor and most gentle person you’ll ever meet, Allen Toussaint. He was a true musical treasure and legend that New Orleans shared with the world. Thank you Allen for all the music, good times and the legacy you leave behind for everyone to continue to enjoy. Rest in Peace.”

Sir Paul McCartney shared a loving recollection of Toussaint saying “I know what a sweet and gentle guy he was and a massive songwriting talent with songs like Fortune Teller, Southern Nights, Working in the Coal Mine and Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues). His songs will be cherished by people like me who will have fond memories of Allen forever. Deepest sympathies and love to his family from me and my family.”

New Orleans natives from around the music community have echoed similar sentiments, with fellow New Orleans legend Buckwheat Zydeco saying  he was “Terribly shocked to hear of passing of our friend Allen Toussaint. Such a great loss for Louisiana music.” New Orleans musician and Late Show with Stephen Colbert band leader Jon Batiste shared a touching piece in which he expresses that Toussaint “made the piano speak.” Batiste goes on to say that he “will strive to keep his music, influence and legacy alive,” a sentiment that I believe and hope many do and will share in preserving and continuing to keep Toussaints legacy alive alongside his timeless music for many years to come.

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