Allen Toussaint, 1938-2015

New Orleans and the music community at large mourns the loss of a legend

We at Keyboard are saddened, and join the music community at large, to mourn the death of legendary New Orleans R&B musician, songwriter, performer, and producer Allen Toussaint.

It is reported that Toussaint passed away after suffering a heart attack following his performance Monday night at the Teatro Lara in Madrid, Spain.

A quiet giant in music, Toussaint experienced early career successes in the 1960s behind the scenes, writing iconic songs for others such as "Working in the Coalmine," (Lee Dorsey), "Fortune Teller" (Benny Spellman), and "Mother-in-Law" and "A Certain Girl" (Ernie K-Doe). He served as producer to many of the artists who recorded his songs, and he played piano and/or arranged music for dozens of New Orleans R&B recordings.

Toussaint's songs have also been covered by iconic admirers such as the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, Robert Plant, Devo, and of course Glen Campbell, who had a Number One pop and country smash with Toussaint's song "Southern Nights" (1977). Toussaint was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Toussaint also released numerous solo albums and collaborative projects, but he did not tour extensively until Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home and studio. After performing at events in New York City to raise funds and awareness for hurricane recovery, Toussaint joined with Elvis Costello and producer Joe Henry to make the poignant thematic album The River in Reverse (2006), which was recorded partly in Piety Street Studios in New Orleans; it was one of the first recording sessions to occur in New Orleans after the flood and included Toussaint classics such as "Tears, Tears, and More Tears," and "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further," as well as new songs co-written with Costello.

After touring with Costello internationally to promote the album, Toussaint just kept on going, taking his elegant vocal delivery, piano brilliance, and marvelous songs all over the world.

Toussant was presented with the National Medal of Arts in 2013. At the ceremony, President Obama said, "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."