@ the Barbican
18 November 2009
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Allen Toussaint (born January 14, 1938) is an American musician,
songwriter and record producer and one of the most influential figures
in New Orleans R&B.
Allen Toussaint has crossed many paths in his illustrious 40 years
plus career in music. He has produced, written for, arranged, had
his songs covered by, and performed with music giants The Judds,
Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Patti LaBelle, Mac “Dr.
John” Rebannac, Aaron and Art Neville, Joe Cocker, The (original)
Meters, Glen Campbell, 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. His songs/productions have been
featured in numerous films, including but not limited to, “Casino”,
“Moulin Rouge”, and “Maid in Manhattan”.
He served as musical director for the off Broadway play, Staggerlee,
which won the prestigious Outer Circle Critics Award.
Toussaint’s career began in his early twenties when hired
by the local Minit Records to supervise its recording activities,
awaiting their arrival of Harold Batiste. Toussaint quickly accumulated
an amazing string of hits for the label, producing, writing, arranging
and often performing on tracks by Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Art
and Aaron Neville, Chris Kenner, and Benny Spellman, putting his
signature New Orleans sound on the map, an obvious continuation
of the Domino/Bartholomew era.
Toussaint got his shot as a solo artist with a record for RCA. 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 then went onto
team up with Lee Dorsey, who was often backed by the funky rhythm
section known as The Meters, turning out a string of hits that included
“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; “Sneaking Sally thru the
Alley” was recorded by both Robert Palmer and Ringo Starr.
Toussaint continued to put his mark on the music business with
his arrangements on LaBelle’s hit, “Lady Marmalade”,
continuing on with Patti through the early stages of her solo career.
After establishing himself as one of the greatest songwriters, accredited
to him by BMI Music, Toussaint was honoured with a Grammy nominee
for 1977’s song of the year, Southern Night, performed by
Glen Campbell. Years later Southern Night was featured on the MCA’s
Grammy nominated compilation CD, Country, Rhythm, and Blues, where
Toussaint teamed up with Country legend Chet Atkins, to perform
Toussant’s career has spanned over 40 years, all adding up
to include being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After
years of writing, producing, recording, arranging, performing and
conducting, Toussaint’s music is continuing on. Several of
his songs are commercial themes, “Yes We Can” (Slim
Fast) and “Working in the Coalmine” (WalMart). His productions
are continuously sampled, introducing it to an entire new arena
of listeners (Louie--ODB and Lady Marmalade (Christinia Augillara,
Lil Kim, Missy Elliot). Songs Java and Southern Night have both
been credited and cited for over 2 million airings. The most recent
of Toussaint’s long list of honours and accolades is the Grammy
nominated pop/vocal album of the year, The River in Reverse; Toussaint’s
collaboration with Elvis Costello. As Mr. Toussaint Hurricane Katrina
was the best booking agent and with that he has started to tour
and perform before a whole new audience. The truly amazing part
is there's more to come...