Allen Toussaint (born January 14, 1938) is an American musician, songwriter and record producer and one of the most influential figures in New Orleans R&B.
Allen Toussaint has crossed many paths in his illustrious 40 years plus career in music. He has produced, written for, arranged, had his songs covered by, and performed with music giants The Judds, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Patti LaBelle, Mac “Dr. John” Rebannac, Aaron and Art Neville, Joe Cocker, The (original) Meters, Glen Campbell, The Band, Little Feat, The Rolling Stones, Devo, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Eric Gale and the countless others.
His songs/productions have been featured in numerous films, including but not limited to, Casino, Moulin Rouge, and Maid in Manhattan. He served as musical director for the off Broadway play, Staggerlee, which won the prestigious Outer Circle Critics Award.
Toussaint career began in his early twenties when hired by the local Minit Records to supervise its recording activities, awaiting their arrival of Harold Batiste. Toussaint quickly accumulated an amazing string of hits for the label, producing, writing, arranging and often performing on tracks by Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Art and Aaron Neville, Chris Kenner, and Benny Spellman, putting his signature New Orleans sound on the map, an obvious continuation of the Domino/Bartholomew era.
Toussaint got his shot as a solo artist with a record for RCA. Two of his earliest tunes, Java, which became a mega-hit for trumpeter Al Hirt and Whipped Cream,” the Herb Alpert hit, became instrumental standards. Toussaint then went onto team up with Lee Dorsey, who was often backed by the funky rhythm section known as The Meters, turning out a string of hits that included Working in the Coalmine; Holy Cow; Ride Your Pony; and many others. Working in the Coalmine was then recorded by The Judds; Yes We Can became a smash hit by The Pointer Sisters; Sneaking Sally thru the Alley was recorded by both Robert Palmer and Ringo Starr. Toussaint continued to put his mark on the music business with his arrangements on LaBelle’s hit, Lady Marmalade, continuing on with Patti through the early stages of her solo career. After establishing himself as one of the greatest songwriters, accredited to him by BMI Music, Toussaint was honored with a Grammy nominee for 1977’s song of the year, Southern Night, performed by Glen Campbell. Years later Southern Night was featured on the MCA’s Grammy nominated compilation CD, Country, Rhythm, and Blues, where Toussaint teamed up with Country legend Chet Atkins, to perform his hit.
His career has spanned over 40 years, all adding up to include being inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” After years of writing, producing, recording, arranging, performing and conducting, Toussaint’s music is continuing on. Several of his songs are commercial themes, Yes We Can (Slim Fast) and Working in the Coalmine (WalMart).
His productions are continuously sampled, introducing it to an entire new arena of listeners (Louie—ODB and Lady Marmalade (Christinia Augillara, Lil Kim, Missy Elliot). Songs Java and Southern Night have both been credited and cited for over 2 million airings. The most recent of Toussaints long list of honors and accolades is the Grammy nominated pop/vocal album of the year, The River in Reverse; Toussaints collaboration with Elvis Costello. As Mr. Toussaint said, Hurricane Katrina was the best booking agent, and with that he started to tour and perform before a whole new audience.
Toussaint passed away hours after performing at a concert in Madrid on November 10, 2015.