Ace songsmith Toussaint passes

Toussaint photo

Allen Toussaint, ace songsmith, arranger and producer, passed away November 10. He leaves a rich legacy, regrettably unsung beyond penning LaBelle’s comeback chart-topper “Lady Marmalade,” The Pointer Sisters’ “Yes We Can Can,” Glen Campbell’s “Southern Nights,” and the 1961 classic “Mother-In-Law” by Ernie K-Doe. “Fortune Teller” was recorded by a list of artists, including Robert Plant and Allison Kraus.

In the 1960s and 1970s he wrote and produced songs for a wide range of artists from Al Hirt’s number one hit “Java,” Otis Redding and The O’Jays to Ringo Starr, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and more. With Paul McCartney and Wings he made Venus and Mars, and with Mac “Dr. John” Rebbenack, seminal New Orleans funk album In the Right Place). He crafted a string of hits for such New Orleans R&B artists as K-Doe, Irma Thomas (“It’s Raining”), Aaron Neville (Hercules”), doo-whop singers The Showmen (“It Will Stand), and Lee Dorsey (“Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky”).

While most of his work was done in New Orleans, where he was hugely influential on the R&B scene, he also worked with such non-New Orleans performers as B. J. Thomas (“Play Something Sweet”), Robert Palmer, (“Let’s Fall In Love Tonight”), Solomon Burke (“Get Out of My Life Woman”), and the Boz Scaggs hit “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?” from Silk Degrees, which Bonnie Raitt also recorded on Home Plate.

In 1976 he collaborated with English blues legend John Mayall on Notice to Appear. In 2007, Toussaint performed a duet with Paul McCartney of a song by New Orleans icon Fats Domino, “I Want to Walk You Home,” on Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino.

Allen Toussaint received the National Medal of Arts in 2013 from President Barack Obama. He recorded a total of 19 solo albums, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and, in 2009, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. On May 9, 2011 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

Unsurprisingly, like many Black artists, Toussaint had much greater performing success abroad than on these shores. He had just finished performing in Madrid, Spain when he succumbed to a heart attack at age 77.


— Bio by Dwight Hobbes