Allen Toussaint, the New Orleans performer, producer and composer of “Southern Nights,” “Mother in Law,” “Working in the Coal Mine” and “It’s Raining” died Tuesday morning (November 10), on tour in Spain. He was 77 years old.
After giving his last performance at Madrid’s Teatro Lara, Madrid emergency services were called to Toussaint’s hotel early Tuesday morning and managed to revive him after he had suffered a heart attack. However, spokesman Javier Ayuso said that Toussaint had stopped breathing during the ambulance ride to a local hospital and efforts to revive him again failed.
A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1988), Louisiana Music Hall of Fame (2009), and the Blues Hall of Fame (2011) Mr. Toussaint received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2013.
Mr. Toussaint had helped to define the New Orleans sound. Quint Davis, president of Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans and director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, said, “He was like a one man Motown. There was that period of time with Ernie K-Doe, Benny Spellman, Lee Dorsey and Irma Thomas where he wrote, produced, played on a whole era of New Orleans music, a lot of which went national.
“He was all of those things, a composer, a songwriter, an instrumentalist, a vocalist, a studio producer – brilliant. And in last few years, he really adopted playing live for people.”
Mr. Toussaint was known personally for his elegant suits, slow manner of speaking, stately posture and a Rolls Royce.
“He was his own living art form, the way he dressed, like somebody from another era, century, always had some incredible combination of jacket and shirt and tie,” Davis said, “Always. He was a living piece of art. The tie and the shirt was a poem every time.”
Mr. Toussaint is survived by his son, Clarence “Reginald” Toussaint; his daughter, Alison Toussaint LeBeaux; and several grandchildren.