Songwriter, producer and revered New Orleans R&B performer Allen Toussaint has died aged 77 after suffering a heart attack last night after a show in Madrid.

We saw him perform a great show just this summer at Ronnie Scott’s

The Guardian adds:

Last week, non-profit organisation New Orleans Artists against Hunger and Homelessness announced Toussaint and musician Paul Simon as acts confirmed to play an annual benefit concert on 8 December. Toussaint co-founded the organisation in 1985 alongside Neville Brothers lead vocalist Aaron Neville, in a bid to help homeless and impoverished citizens of New Orleans.

Beyond his philanthropic work, Toussaint was a legendary fixture of New Orleans R&B. Born in New Orleans on 14 January 1938, he started his musical career as an apprentice to composer, bandleader and producer Dave Bartholomew, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Toussaint then came into his own as a session musician, before becoming a songwriter and producer affiliated with record labels Minit and Instant.

Toussaint wrote hit R&B songs for the likes of Neville, Ernie K-Doe, The Showmen and Irma Thomas and collaborated with Joe Cocker and Paul McCartney, among many others.

His songs often found new life when performed or covered by other artists. He was responsible for Lee Dorsey’s Working in the Coal Mine, Fortune Teller, covered by the Rolling Stones and Benny Spellman, K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law, Southern Nights, covered by Glen Campbell, and Ruler of My Heart, famously recorded by Thomas.

Here’s ‘Who’s Gonna Brother Get Further’, a favourite of mine that ties in with Toussaint’s social concerns, including his founding of New Orleans Artists against Hunger and Homelessness:

We may seem happy
Like everything’s alright
But from the outside lookin’ in
Everything’s uptight

But deep down inside
We’re coverin’ up the pain
It’s an old thing, it’s a soul thing
But it’s a real thing

Pray tell, what’s gonna happen to brother?
Who’s gonna help him get further?
One another
One another

And this is a great example of Allen Toussaint the raconteur, remembering childhood visits to his folks in the bayou country outside New Orleans:

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