R.I.P. Allen Toussaint

It’s with heavy hearts that we report that Allen Toussaint, the producer, pianist, songwriter, and all around legend of New Orleans R&B, passed away on Monday. Toussaint had just finished performing in a concert in Madrid. He was 77. The New York Times reports that Toussaint’s daughter confirmed his death via email, and stated that he collapsed in his hotel room after suffering a heart attack.

Born in 1938, Toussaint taught himself piano as a kid and released his first album at the age of 20 under the name Tousan. He later became the house producer, arranger, and chief songwriter at Minit Records, and his career moved forth from there. Toussaint co-founded Sea-Saint Studios in 1972 alongside Marshall Sehorn, where Paul McCartney and Paul Simon famously recorded, and those are just two of a long list of renowned musicians that Toussaint worked with. He penned Patti Labelle’s hit “Lady Marmalade,” and some of his most well-known songs have been covered time and again, including “Working In The Coal Mine,” “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley,” “Get Out Of My Life, Woman,” and “Mother-In-Law.” One of his most well-known, “Fortune Teller,” was included on the Rolling Stones’ first live album Got Live if You Want It!.

Toussaint was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998, and a life-sized statue of Toussaint stands on Bourbon Street alongside other greats of New Orleans’ music community. When Hurricane Katrina wrecked his home and studio seven years later, a displaced Touissant moved to New York. He would later return to New Orleans, but that tragic turn of events wrought The River In Reverse, a full-length album and ode to Toussaint’s hometown written alongside Elvis Costello. That release took Costello and Toussaint on a national tour and earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Toussaint was awarded a National Medal of The Arts for his contributions to the city in the years post-Katrina. At the ceremony, President Obama said the following about Toussaint’s legacy:

After his hometown was battered by Katrina and Allen was forced to evacuate, he did something even more important for his city — he went back… And since then, Allen has devoted his musical talent to lifting up and building up a city. And today, he’s taking the stage all over the world, with all kinds of incredible talent, doing everything he can to revive the legendary soul of the Big Easy.

Toussaint was slated to perform alongside Paul Simon at a benefit concert for New Orleans Artists Against Hunger And Homelessness on 12/8. He will be missed on that night and many nights to come.