Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Allen Toussaint Remembered

We lost another musical giant yesterday.

Allen Toussaint (that's "too-sant" for the Non Orleanians) died in Madrid from a heart attack after a concert. He was only 77 years old.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Toussaint was one of the best known performers, writers and personalities in the city. He worked for my Uncle Smitty at Minit Records in the 60s. That's when I knew him. I was just 10 then and used to hang out at his house and play on his upright piano. He lived down the street from us in an old shotgun house. Every day, people were there playing, singing on the porch and telling jokes. Irma Thomas, Benny Spellman, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey ... I was in awe. I had NO IDEA that I was in the middle of greatness all around me and not one of them ever made me feel like the stupid kid that I was. They were all encouraging as I plunked away on the piano.

Just in case you never heard of him, here's a partial list of what he wrote:

"Working in the Coal Mine" for Lee Dorsey
"Right Place. Right Time" for Dr. John
"Mother In- Law" for Ernie K-Doe
"Ruler of My Heart" and "It's Raining"  for Irma Thomas
"Fortune Teller" for Benny Spellman
"Southern Nights" for Glenn Campbell            

He also wrote for and produced with Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney and Bonnie Raitt among hundreds of others. Every year he played at the Jazz and Heritage Festival until Katrina destroyed his house and most of his manuscripts. He moved to New York for a while and then came back home a few years ago.

He was in the Right Place ... at the Right Time ... for yours truly.

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