photo by Laura Brown Were Allen Toussaint to arrive on the scene today, he’d probably be called a hyphenate. Toussaint, who passed away unexpectedly on November 10 at the age of 77, was far too humble a gentleman to ever go seeking out such branding, but the title surely fits. After all, he produced, arranged, sang, played a mean piano, wrote a bunch of hit songs, and, putting all these myriad talents together, did as much as anybody else to create and define the New Orleans R&B sound.
On the songwriting side, he’s known for big smashes like “Mother-In-Law,” “I Like It Like That,” “Working In The Coal Mine,” and “Southern Nights.” Yet Toussaint also wrote several socially-conscious songs that displayed depth and insight far beyond what’s normally found on the pop charts. Many of those songs spoke eloquently about the black experience, and their intensity and passion belied the mild-mannered persona Toussaint always struck.
When Elvis Costello collaborated with Toussaint on the album The River In Reverse in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, he chose a few of these topical songs to record because of the timeliness of the sentiment. As Costello writes in his autobiography Unfaithful Music, “I just wanted those songs to be heard again, and then again. I was the one with the way and will to put those songs and their composer before a new and different audience. I hope anyone who hears those songs for the first time on our album gets the same pleasure upon encountering the original renditions.”
Among those that Costello chose for the record was “Freedom For The... Sign In to Keep Reading