The Songwriters Hall of Fame was saddened today to learn of the passing of 2011 Inductee Allen Toussaint; an American musician, songwriter and record producer and one of the most influential figures in New Orleans R&B.
Born in 1938 in Gert Town, a humble working-class neighborhood of New Orleans, he began his career as a teenager in the 1950s, releasing his first album in 1958 under the name Tousan. In 1960, he became the house producer, arranger and songwriter for the Minit label, working on songs like Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother in Law,” Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya” and Jessie Hill’s “Ooh Poo Pah Doo.” 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 went onto team up with Lee Dorsey, who was often backed by the funky rhythm section known as The Meters, and they turned out a string of hits, including “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 and “Sneaking Sally Thru The Alley” was recorded by both Robert Palmer and Ringo Starr. “Fortune Teller,” became a standard among British Invasion rock bands in the mid-60s, recorded by the Who and the Rolling Stones, among others.
Toussaint was honored with a GRAMMY nomination for 1977’s song of the year “Southern Night,” performed by Glen Campbell. Years later, “Southern Night” was featured on MCA’s GRAMMY nominated compilation CD, “Country, Rhythm, and Blues,” where Toussaint teamed up with Country legend Chet Atkins, to perform his hit.
Toussaint has crossed many paths in his 40-plus year career in music. He has produced, written for, arranged, had his songs covered by, and performed with Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Mac Rebbenack (“Dr. John”), Aaron and Art Neville, Patti LaBelle, Joe Cocker, 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.
Find out more about Allen Toussaint’s illustrious career by going to his exhibit on the Songwriters Hall of Fame Virtual Museum site.