New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, rhythm & blues, and rock ‘n’ roll. It was the port of entry for African rhythms that entered its harbor with Cubans, Haitians, and Dominicans who brought their music with them. Allen Toussaint was not only a prolific composer, but he also championed the early careers of zydeco superstars like the Meters, and he produced classics such as Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother in Law,” Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya” and “Working in a Coal Mine” Irma Thomas’ “Ruler of My Heart, and Jessie Hill’s “Ooh Poo Pah Doo.” These songs often catapulted from regional specialities on small New Orleans labels to Top 40 hits across America. Across the pond, the Rolling Stones and The Who also covered his songs.
Toussaint had the DNA of Professor Longhair in his spirit and soul, and you hear it in everything he did.
In the mid-1990s, Toussaint recorded “The River in Reverse” with Elvis Costello, in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Toussaint was forced to leave New Orleans after Katrina, moving to New York City, but returned to his hometown later.
Harry Shearer — former KCRW host, who is an expert on New Orleans music and has a home there — called Toussaint “a musical Matterhorn.”
We have lost a giant. Elegant, soft-spoken–and a musical Matterhorn. RIP Allen Toussaint. https://t.co/gvGkoGgYbX
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) November 10, 2015
Here is Toussaint performing in Madrid just before his death. Thank you Allen Toussaint for spreading the New Orleans musical gospel for so many years. Your music is as tasty as a bowl of great gumbo.