Allen Toussaint, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter, producer, pianist, performer and New Orleans legend, passed away Monday night while on tour in Spain. He was 77. Toussaint suffered a heart attack at his hotel after performing at Madrid’s Teatro Lara earlier in the night; after being resuscitated, he suffered a second, fatal heart attack en route to the hospital, the BBC reports.
The Grammy-winning Toussaint was one of the Big Easy’s most influential, beloved and iconic musicians, having penned oft-covered songs like “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Mother-in-Law,” “Fortune Teller,” “Southern Nights,” “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,” “Get Out of My Life, Woman” and countless more. Toussaint’s songs were recorded by the likes of Jerry Garcia, Ringo Starr, Little Feat, Robert Palmer, the Yardbirds, Glen Campbell, Bonnie Raitt, the Band, Warren Zevon, the Rolling Stones and many more.
Born in 1938 in New Orleans, Toussaint began playing piano at age seven and broke into the music industry by his teens when he was recruited to sit in for a recording session that fellow New Orleans great Fats Domino couldn’t attend. By 1960, Toussaint was serving as chief songwriter at Minit Records, where he penned Ernie K-Doe’s chart-topping “Mother-in-Law.” After a stint in the military, Toussaint returned to form the production company Sansu with Marshall Sehorn, which resulted in the Lee Dorsey hits “Ride Your Pony,” “Working in the Coal Mine” and “Holy Cow.”
Toussaint also played a pivotal role of formulating a unique style of soul, funk and R&B that became emblematic of New Orleans. Toussaint served as producer for the Meters, who got their start as Toussaint’s backing band on Sansu before becoming one of the greatest funk acts of their era. Toussaint and Sehorn also built their Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans, which became a go-to for local musicians like Dr. John and the Neville Brothers as well as superstars like Paul McCartney – who recorded portions of Wings’ 1975 LP Venus and Mars with Toussaint on piano at the studio – and Paul Simon, New Orleans’ WWL writes. Labelle also recorded the Toussaint-produced “Lady Marmalade” at the studio.
Source: Rolling Stone | Daniel Kreps