Allen Toussaint (Photo: Noe Cugny)

Allen Toussaint

I was just waking up early yesterday when I heard the news: Allen Toussaint had died.

I was shocked. Dumbfounded. Numb.

I suppose that’s what always happens when a friend suddenly passes away.

But Allen was not just a friend. He was an extraordinary human being, and he touched my life personally in so many ways.

Obviously, his influence on New Orleans music and musicians, and his influence on the rest of the world was profound. Of any local musician and performer, Allen was probably the king and certainly one of the New Orleans-born musicians who actually made a damn good living from his music, specifically from songwriting/publishing (His gold Rolls-Royce’s license plate read “SONGS.”)

Furthermore, he was a prince among men. I never met anyone else in the music business that was so kind, humble, soft-spoken, and such the ultimate gentleman, with never a bad word to say about anyone.

I always told Allen that he should write his autobiography, or a memoir because he’d had such a very interesting life, but I don’t think he wanted to; maybe he didn’t think what he’d accomplished was so very important to the world (see what I mean about humble?). At one point (pre-Katrina) he told me that he had kept a daily journal almost all of his life (which was sort of exciting to hear). But that was lost during Katrina, along with everything else he owned and had worked on musically that was in his home and personal studio.

It’s hard to believe that I’ll never get to talk to him again, hear his mellifluous voice, listen to his stories, or see him again, in his beautiful tailored suits, expensive sandals with socks. Goofy. So Allen.

We do have his music and his legacy, thank the Lord: but Allen’s passing is truly the end of an era, and it makes me anxious about anticipating the passing of so many of the musical friends I’ve made throughout my career.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Toussaint. You gave (and will still give) so much to our world. Southern Nights won’t the same without you.

  • SwampKing

    Jan,
    Well said, you capture the essence of the man….

    I had the pleasure of meeting him while he was evacuated after Katrina, etc., to NYC. He was taking photos of Lincoln Center, telling me he had time to kill before his meeting with Elvis Costello at the ASCAP building across the street…had I ever heard of him? Yes, sir, I think so.
    I recounted that we’d seen him perform at that year’s Jazz & Heritage Fest in N.O. How was his house, I asked? He took a second, his voice got low & he said he’d lost just about everything. But life goes on, he added, & invited me to Joe’s Pub to see him.

    What a class act.

  • roamingR

    What a lovely tribute..thank you.
    I hope everyone finds the time to watch the doc as well.
    We’ve lost a pure spirit and a multi-talented musician/producer/writer. In many ways, he IS New Orleans music.