Allen Toussaint, a songwriter, producer, arranger and performer who was a hugely influential figure in New Orleans music, has died aged 77.

Toussaint’s career began in the 1950s, and over the decades has worked with dozens of renowned New Orleans musicians like Irma Thomas, Dr. John and Ernie K-Doe as well as international stars like Paul McCartney, Joe Cocker and Glen Campbell.

His hot streak as a songwriter started in the mid-50s and lasted far into the next decade, writing and producing Ernie K-Doe’s ‘Mother-in-Law’, Chris Kenner’s ‘I Like it Like That’, Irma Thomas’ ‘It’s Raining’ and many more. After a stint in the U.S. Army in the mid-60s he returned to write a string of soul and R&B hit singles, including Lee Dorsey’s ‘Ride Your Pony’ and ‘Working in the Coal Mine’.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Toussaint as a member in 1998, stating that his “greatest contribution was in not allowing the city’s old-school R&B traditions to die out but by keeping pace with developments in the rapidly evolving worlds of soul and funk.”

He worked behind the scenes most of his life, but found late success as a performer after Hurricane Katrina devastated his New Orleans home and studio. After relocating to New York, he collaborated with other musicians, including Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton, released solo albums and toured his solo act.

In 2013 he was given the National Medal of Arts, the highest honour given to American artists. Toussaint was on tour in Spain when he died on Monday. [via WWL-TV]



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