By: Robert C. Bess Sr.
Allen Toussaint died on Monday in Madrid. His daughter confirmed his death in an email saying that he died from a heart attack. He was in Madrid touring and had just appeared in concert before collapsing in his hotel room, according to El Mundo.
Toussaint, 77, had been keeping a very busy schedule. He appeared in the United States and in Europe and had plans to continue to Belgium and Britain after his appearance in Spain. Fans who had attended his concert at the Teatro Lara in Madrid posted a video in his honor; a local music club wrote on twitter, “The @teatrolara is a Southern party thanks to the great Allen Toussaint.”
Born in Gert Town, which is in New Orleans, he taught himself to play the piano and began his career as a performer in the 1950’s as a teenager. He released his first album in 1958 and called it Tousan. In the 1960’s he became house producer, arranger and songwriter with the “Minit Label.” It was with this company that he expanded his skillset becoming not only a singer, but expanding these newly assigned skills that he used to work on several songs; Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother in Law,” Lee Dorsey’s “YaYa” and Jessie Hill’s “Ooh Poo Pau Doo.”
Toussaint’s work stood out as it was known for its humorous edge. In addition to that, it was lively and his arrangements gave listeners a look at the influence of Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd, better known as “Professor Longhair”.
Toussaint joined the Army briefly, but returned in 1965 and continued to perform working with various musicians from New Orleans including the Meters. He co-founded a studio in 1972 with Marshall Sehorn called the Sea-Saint Studio, which boasts such entertainers as Paul Simon and Paul McCartney. His songs were often remade by such artists as “The Who” and the ”Rolling Stones.” The Rolling Stones paid tribute to Toussaint posting their remake of his song on Twitter with the message, “RIP Allen Toussaint.”
Toussaint continued to perform in recent times. His career was rebirthed after the storms hit New Orleans and he had to move to New York. He played solo frequently in New York but began to branch out and perform with other pop musicians. He recorded the album “The River in Reverse,” with Elvis Costello which was a response to Hurricane Katrina.