Allen Toussaint, 77, New Orleans R&B Icon, Dies

Allen Toussaint performs at Stockholm at 2009. (Henryk Kotowski via Wikipedia)
Allen Toussaint performs at Stockholm at 2009. (Henryk Kotowski via Wikipedia)

Allen Toussaint, legendary New Orleans pianist and composer, died Monday in Spain, where he performed the previous night. He was 77.

Madrid emergency services spokesman Javier Ayuso said Toussaint suffered a heart attack inside his hotel room, according to reports. Rescue workers called to the room were able to revive him, but he stopped breathing en route to a hospital, where attempts to save him failed.

Toussaint, one of New Orleans’ most legendary and celebrated performers, was born in the city’s “Gert Town,” a working-class neighborhood where his mother, Naomi Neville, welcomed and fed all kinds of musicians as they practiced and recorded with her son.

Toussaint, who often appeared as one of the headliners at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, penned the 1966 Lee Dorsey classic “Working in a Coal Mine” and produced LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” in 1975. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

“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,” the Hall of Fame said on its website. “In addition, he brought the New Orleans sound to the national stage, and it remains a vital and ongoing part of our musical heritage to this day.”

Toussaint, who’d left the states Thursday for his European tour, was to perform a benefit concert on Dec. 8 in New Orleans along with longtime friend Paul Simon.

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