The legacy of Allen Toussaint


President Obama Awards Allen Toussaint
U.S. President Barack Obama presents a 2012 National Medal of Arts to Allen Toussaint, for his contributions as a composer, producer and performer, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

In a world where the words "legend" and "genius" are tossed around perhaps too freely, Allen Toussaint was both.

I was sad to hear of the passing of the legendary Allen Toussaint. His music was filled with so much humanity — humor, sadness, joy, heartbreak, celebration, life — and his sound seemed to capture New Orleans perfectly. The way he perfected the interlocking horn parts, the spaces his syncopation created that oozed with the beat of the heart. He always struck me as some combination of James Brown and Duke Ellington, down-home gutbucket mixed with sophistication and class, and he spent his time mostly staying in the background, providing the songs and productions for Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas and so many others.

I feel honored to have caught a set by him in St. Paul at the Jazzfest in Mears Park a few years ago, where he just rolled out hit after hit, with songs made famous by others that most of the crowd had no idea he'd written or produced. He was clearly generous with his music, and elevated the game of so many he mentored and worked with — from Elvis Costello to the Band, and hundreds of New Orleans artists.

The world is a little quieter today missing his voice, yet we should be thankful for all the music he created that will live on forever.

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  • 9:30 Coffee Break: Remembering Allen Toussaint Legendary musician, songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint died today at age 77. To honor his memory, for today's 9:30 Coffee Break, what songs do you want to hear that were performed, written or produced by Allen Toussaint? Send us your requests.

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