Legendary New Orleans musician, songwriter, and producer Allen Toussaint died after a concert performance in Madrid on November 10. He was 77 years old. Even if you are unfamiliar with Toussaint, his genius is hidden somewhere in your record collection. Look him up.
Robbie Robertson wrote a little tribute to Toussaint on his Facebook page:
I just got word my old friend Allen Toussaint passed away.
I had the joyful experience of working with Allen on a couple of magical occasions.
The horn arrangements he wrote for The Band became a staple of our sound from the Academy Of Music/Rock Of Ages concerts to The Last Waltz.
He was not only a brilliant songwriter, record producer, piano man, arranger and performer; he was also one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known. I had the honor of inducting Allen into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and I couldn’t find enough kind words to express how strongly I felt about him and his music.
The world has lost a true musical treasure that can never be replaced and I will miss him deeply.
Blessings – –
Toussaint also arranged the horns on “Life is a Carnival” from 1971’s Cahoots album. The Band covered his song “Holy Cow” on their 1973 album, Moondog Matinee.
Bob Dylan, of course, appeared at both the Last Waltz and at the final Academy of Music concert on New Year’s Eve, and horns (most likely) arranged by Toussaint can be heard on “Down in the Flood” from the expanded edition of Rock of Ages.
According to Olof Bjorner, Dylan attempted to cover Toussaint’s “Freedom for the Stallion” at three different session in Los Angeles – Three takes in November, 1984, and one take each at two sessions in mid-June, 1985, around the time of Live-Aid. The tracks have never been officially released.
Dylan spoke about, and played a few songs associated with, Toussaint on his Theme Time Radio Hour program.
From season one’s “Flowers” episode:
“Roses are the most popular flowers to give, so let’s hear one more song about ‘em. Why not make it Allen Toussaint? Allen just did a new album with Elvis Costello, and they wrote a bunch of new songs together. Here’s one of them called ‘The Sharpest Thorn’ …‘Hard as a pistol, keen as a blade, the sharpest thorn, upon parade’ …”
On the “Thanksgiving Leftovers” episode, this was Dylan’s introduction to a record that didn’t make it into the “Flowers” episode:
“Betty Harris has a song about twelve red roses. It’s written by Allen Toussaint, and they collaborated on a string of great singles, like this one from 19 and 66. Betty Harris, ‘Twelve Red Roses.’”
From the “Heart” episode, also from season one:
When talking about Irma (Lee) Thomas’ “Ruler of My Heart,” Dylan said, “As Irma Thomas, she had a number of big hits. Here’s one written by Allen Toussaint, under the pseudonym Naomi Neville, which was his mother’s maiden name, the song that Otis Redding later adapted, and the Rolling Stones covered that version. But here’s the original, ‘Ruler of my Heart’ … When Otis redid it, he called it ‘Pain In My Heart,’ and he took a writing credit. Toussaint successfully sued, and the song went back to being written by Naomi Neville.”
From the “Questions” episode, season three, Dylan had this to say in his introduction to the song, “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?”…
“Next up, Allen Toussaint. Allen is a very talented guy. Not only did he write so many hit songs – including ‘Whipped Cream’ (played in the background) which the Tijuana Brass took to number one, which later became the theme of The Dating Game – he was also a powerhouse producer, making hit records for Dr. John, LaBelle, the Meters, and others. This (next) song was later covered by Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs, and Lowell George. But here’s the man who wrote it, Allen Toussaint, and ‘What Do You Want the Girl to Do?’”
On the “Night” Episode, Dylan mentioned Toussaint as the composer of “In the Night” by Chick Carbo. Dylan also played Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law” on the “Mother” episode, but did not mention Toussaint, who wrote, produced, and played piano on the original hit version.
Thanks to the Bob Dylan Fan Club for their Theme Time pages.
Of the dozens of Dylan Internet sites … Expecting Rain … and the atombash.com Bob Dylan blog by Harold Lepidus are the best places for up-to-the-minute Dylan news – David Kinney, “The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob.”(Simon & Schuster, 2014)
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