Allen Toussaint: A Career of Essential Tracks

A Toussaint listening list

As this issue went to press, we were sad to learn that Allen Toussaint had passed away. Toussaint’s long career was an inspiration on so many levels: A magnificent pianist, arranger, producer, and singer—and quite the snappy dresser—Toussaint had a hand in hundreds of unforgettable recordings by artists from his native New Orleans, and beyond. We respectfully offer our Listening List, featuring just a handful of Toussaint’s career highlights.

Irma Thomas, “It’s Raining” (1962)
Toussaint wrote, arranged, and produced this emotional single by the Soul Queen of New Orleans.

Ernie K-Doe, “A Certain Girl” (1964)
Go back and listen to the piano parts on this Toussaint-penned soul classic.

Lee Dorsey, “Working in the Coal Mine” (1966)
The coolest ever work song—written, produced, and arranged by Toussaint—features funky accompaniment by The Meters. (Also, don’t miss Dorsey’s recordings of Toussaint’s “Holy Cow” and “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley.”)

Dr. John, In the Right Place (1973)
Again with The Meters backing, Toussaint not only produced and arranged, but also played piano, acoustic guitar, and percussion, and sang background vocals.

Allen Toussaint, “Southern Nights” (1975)
On recent solo tours, Toussaint closed his shows with a sweet version of his most nostalgic song, which was popularized by Glen Campbell. His original version is an awesome, watery meeting of piano artistry and psychedelia.

Allen Toussaint’s Jazzity Project Going Places (2004)
Toussaint’s jazz combo record includes a swinging reinterpretation of the ’60s soul ballad he wrote for Irma Thomas “Ruler of My Heart.”

Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, The River in Reverse (2006)
This post-Katrina album features classic Toussaint compositions and new collaborative ones, with these two great artists trading songs and vocal lines.

Allen Toussaint, The Bright Mississippi (2009)
Toussaint’s second all-jazz album, produced by Joe Henry, has a much more traditional feel than the Jazzity Project, but is no less inspired and inventive.

Allen Toussaint, Songbook (2013)
This live album feels even more like a gift now that the artist is gone. It is a beautiful document of Toussaint’s late-life tours, showcasing elegant versions of the many hits he wrote for others.