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Allen Toussaint has died

The flamboyant New Orleans vocalist, composer, producer and keyboard player Allen Toussaint has died aged 77

Allen Toussaint has died aged 77. The flamboyant New Orleans vocalist, composer, producer and keyboard player suffered a heart attack following a concert at the Teatro Lara in Madrid, Spain, and was pronounced dead on his arrival at hospital.

Widely credited for his crucial influence on the development of New Orleans R&B, Toussaint’s career in music began as a teenager in the 1950s. Inspired by blues pianist Professor Longhair, his piano playing gained early recognition from Fats Domino’s producer Dave Bartholomew. He would go on to write seminal R&B sides such as “Working In A Coal Mine”, “Get Out Of My Life, Woman”, “Play Something Sweet” and “Ride Your Pony”. Another of his songs, “Fortune Teller”, was much covered by UK groups in the mid-60s, including The Who, The Rolling Stones (who, like Otis Redding, also covered “Ruler Of My Heart” under the title “Pain In My Heart”) The Hollies and The Merseybeats.

Toussaint established the popular Sea-Saint studio in the 1970s. He arranged horns for The Band’s Cahoots and Rock Of Ages albums, as well as Martin Scorsese’s film of their farewell concert The Last Waltz. He teamed up with the New Orleans funk ensemble The Meters for Dr John’s albums In The Right Place (1973) and Desitively Bonaroo (1974). In 1975, Toussaint released Southern Nights, an album tribute to his childhood in Louisiana, which featured substantial contributions from members of The Meters. MOR king Glen Campbell scored a hit with his jaunty interpretation of the title track in 1977 and ex-Little Feat frontman Lowell George opened his 1979 solo album Thanks I’ll Eat It Here with his version of “What Do You Want The Girl To Do?” Memorably, Southern Nights received an honourable mention from Ian Penman in his 1994 interview with Massive Attack in The Wire 127.

Toussaint continued to write, record, produce and perform up until his death. His most recent release was 2013’s Songbook, comprised of intimate solo versions of his best known songs. He is survived by his son Clarence, daughter Alison and several grandchildren.

Watch Allen Toussaint live at Billboard Live, Tokyo