New Orleans pianist Allen Toussaint, 77, dies in Spain

Tue Nov 10, 2015 7:46pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

MADRID (Reuters) - Allen Toussaint, one of the legendary names of New Orleans music, has died in Madrid at the age of 77.

The piano master, known for jazz, R&B and blues and who wrote hits such as "Working in a Coalmine" and produced Patti LaBelle's famous cover of "Lady Marmalade", died of a heart attack on Monday evening after giving a concert at the Spanish capital's Teatro Lara, hospital officials said.

Fans posted videos of Toussaint's final performance on YouTube, while the English singer and songwriter Billy Bragg said on Twitter: "The man was a genius."

Toussaint, who began performing in his teens, collaborated with a wide range of artists, including John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Lee Dorsey, Paul McCartney and The Band.

He did the horn arrangements for The Band's famed final concert filmed by Martin Scorsese as "The Last Waltz".

Many of his songs became famous in cover versions by The Rolling Stones, The Who, Robert Plant, Bo Diddley and others.

In addition to writing a string of hits, including "Southern Nights" and "Fortune Teller", Toussaint also campaigned and raised funds to help New Orleans recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

President Obama praised Toussaint's efforts in 2013 when the musician was awarded the American National Medal of Arts, saying: “After his hometown was battered by Katrina and Allen was forced to evacuate, he did something even more important for his city, he went back and since then Allen has devoted his musical talent to lifting up and building up a city."

Toussaint said in an autobiographical item on his website that he began playing the piano when he was about six years old when an old upright piano was brought into the family home for his sister, who quickly gave it up.   Continued...

File photo of inductee Allen Toussaint performing during the Songwriters Hall of Fame awards in New York June 16, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson