NEWS: Allen Toussaint, the legendary songwriter and pianist, has died

Caption: Jazz Festival Winding Up -- Performing the last weekend of the 1979 Jazz and Heritage Festival will be Allen Toussaint. Date: May 4, 1979. (Photo by Burt Steel, | The Times-Picayune archive)

Allen Toussaint, New Orleans composer, producer and performer, died of a heart attack on Tuesday (Nov. 10) while on tour in Europe. He was 77.

The legendary New Orleans musician had performed a concert at Madrid’s Lara Theater on Monday night, according to the Associated Press.

Allen-ToussaintMadrid emergency services spokesman Javier Ayuso said rescue workers were called to Mr. Toussaint’s hotel early Tuesday morning and managed to revive him after he suffered a heart attack. But Ayuso said Mr. Toussaint stopped breathing during the ambulance ride to a hospital and efforts to revive him again were unsuccessful.

Mr. Toussaint, an elegant, talented, versatile force, turned out an avalanche of songs that have become a sturdy part of the canon of New Orleans music.

He was set to play a New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness benefit concert Dec. 8, with Paul Simon, at Le Petit Theatre. Toussaint co-founded NOAAHH in 1985.

He was on a tour in Spain, with plans to play in Belgium, London and Madrid, according to his Facebook page. 

In addition to playing piano, he composed scores of songs, including “Ruler of My Heart,” “A Certain Girl,” “Fortune Teller” and “Lipstick Traces (on a Langford_TOUSSAINT_450Cigarette).” The New Orleans-born trumpeter Al Hirt had a hit with Mr. Toussaint’s instrumental composition “Java.”

In the 1970s, he embarked on a solo career, which reached a high point with the release of his “Southern Nights” album; the title song became a hit not only for him but also for Glen Campbell.

Mr. Toussaint performed frequently at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, both at the Fair Grounds and, in the early days, aboard the Steamer President for nighttime festival concerts.

In collaboration with Marshall Sehorn, Mr. Toussaint created Sea-Saint recording studio where Paul and Linda McCartney, who recorded their album “Venus and Mars” there with their band, Wings, in 1975.

Mr. Toussaint recently collaborated with Elvis Costello on the album “The River in Reverse.” The tracks recorded in New Orleans were done in the first major studio session after Hurricane Katrina. He made a guest appearance at Costello’s March 12 concert at the Civic. At the concert, Toussaint said of Costello “There was no one on the planet who cared more about New Orleans than this man.”

Mr. Toussaint is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and he received the National allen toussaint-6-3Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

Throughout his career, Mr. Toussaint has maintained a reputation for sartorial panache with a wardrobe of snazzy outfits, which he wears even in the heat of outdoor festivals. At last year’s Jazz and Heritage Festival, Brett Anderson wrote, “His stage outfit blended plaid, paisley and polka dots like nobody’s business.”

The whimsy carried over to the vanity plates for his golden Rolls-Royces: One read “Piano,” another, “Tunes.”

Note: This story has been corrected to note that Mr. Toussaint died early Tuesday morning.