Allen Toussaint 1938 – 2015

By , November 10, 2015 1:06 pm


Al Tousan – Java (RCA)
The Stokes – Whipped Cream (ALON)
Ernie K Doe – Mother In Law (Minit) 1961
Diamond Joe – Fair Play (Minit)
Benny Spellman – Fortune Teller (Minit)
Lee Dorsey – Ride Your Pony (Amy)
Warren Lee – Star Revue (Deesu)
Willie Harper – But I Couldn’t (ALON)
Eldridge Holmes – Emperor Jones (ALON)
Irma Thomas- What Are You Trying To Do (Imperial)
Diamond Joe – Gossip Gossip (Sansu)
Betty Harris – Trouble With My Lover (Sansu)
O’Jays – Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette) (Imperial)
Rubaiyats – Omar Khayyam (Sansu)
Rubaiyats – Tomorrow (Sansu)
Willie and Allen – I Don’t Need Nobody (Sansu)
Joe Williams and the Jazz Orchestra – Get Out Of My Life Woman (SS)
Bettye Lavette – Nearer To You (Silver Fox)
John Williams and the Tick Tocks – Blues Tears and Sorrows (Sansu)
Willie West – Fairchild (Josie)
Eldridge Holmes – If I Were a Carpenter (Deesu)
Willie Harper – A Certain Girl (Tou Sea)
Lee Dorsey – Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On) (Amy)
Lee Dorsey – Give It Up (Amy)
Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can Can (Blue Thumb)
Robert Palmer – Sneaking Sally Through the Alley (Island)
Boz Scaggs – Hercules (Columbia)
Esther Phillips – From a Whisper to a Scream (Kudu)
Allen Toussaint – Southern Nights (Reprise)


Listen/Download – Toussaintiana – An Allen Toussaint Memorial 152MB Mixed MP3


NOTE: I normally put up a Friday post, but people really seem to be digging the Allen Toussaint Memorial mix, and if anyone deserves some extra time on the front page of Funky16Corners, he is the man. I will be back on Monday with another Toussaint tune (which, oddly enough, I wrote up the day before he passed), so check back then, and make sure to check out this week’s Funky16Corners Radio Show podcast, available in iTunes, on your mobile device via the TuneIn app, or as a download here at the blog.

Keep the Faith



Greetings all.

I come to you today with tears in my eyes and a very heavy heart, indeed.

News came through this morning that the mighty Allen Toussaint passed on to his reward after performing a concert in Spain.

There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t have a piece of music that he touched, whether as a writer, performer, arranger or producer (or all of the above) bouncing around in my head, playing loudly in my ride or coming out of my mouth with varying degrees of competency.

Toussaint was by any measure a giant of 20th century music.

His reach as a composer, populating the modern popular music songbook with a wide variety of standards – instrumental and vocal – was vast. I’d be willing to be that almost everyone over a certain age knows at least one Allen Toussaint composition (whether they know it’s his or not).

He was a master of combining the sounds of his native New Orleans with the broader palette of popular music.

He was also an impeccable judge of talent. Aside from the many artists he ushered into the charts, there were many, many others – equally brilliant – that are mostly unknown outside of New Orleans and record collector circles.

He first recorded in 1958 under the nom de record ‘Al Tousan’, waxing an album for RCA that included the original version of ‘Java’, made into a huge hit five years later by his New Orleans compatriot Al Hirt.

Toussaint’s early work as a composer/producer included records by Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe (the huge 1961 hit ‘Mother In Law’), Willie Harper, and Irma Thomas.

Through the 1960s he was a virtual machine, writing, producing and arranging records for a who’s who of New Orleans talent, including a number of singers, like Willie Harper, Eldridge Holmes and Diamond Joe Maryland who – though they never really broke into the mainstream – he took under his wing, making record after amazing record.

As soon as I heard about Toussaint’s passing this morning, I started jotting down notes, trying to cover not only his bigger hits, but some of the incredible records he made that are little known outside of the collectors world.

I wanted to make a mix that took his hits into consideration, but also examples of his vast catalog of things that ought to be better known.

Things get started with his original, 1958 version of ‘Java’, as well as the 1965 record by his group the Stokes, a minor hit in 1965 that went on to jam itself into the public consciousness when used (in a cover by Herb Alpert and the Tjuana Brass) as incidental music on ‘the Dating Game’, ‘Whipped Cream’.

Ernie K-Doe’s 1961 ‘Mother In Law’ is not only one of the biggest New Orleans hits of the 60s, but one of the best-known songs to come out of the city in the pop era. Featuring backing vocals by Benny Spellman and piano by Toussaint, the record is perfect encapsulation of the New Orleans sound.

Diamond Joe’s 1962 ‘Fair Play’ isn’t a Toussaint composition (it was written by Earl King and Allen Orange), but the stunning arrangement is his doing. It has long been one of my favorite records in any genre, and its use of autoharp is positively inspired.

Benny Spellman’s 1962 ‘Fortune Teller’ (backed with the original recording of ‘Lipstick Traces’) was not only a great record on its own, but went on to inspire many covers, mainly by rock bands in the UK where it became a standard of sorts.

Lee Dorsey’s 1965 ‘Ride Your Pony’ is another Toussaint song that went on to be covered many times. Dorsey, who had been recording steadily since the late 50s, hadn’t had a significant hit since 1961’s ‘Ya Ya’, and ‘Ride Your Pony’ put him back into the Top 40.

Warren Lee did a lot of recording with Toussaint, but his only chart success (a minor hit in 1966) was the rollicking ‘Star Revue’ (another personal fave). Co-written by Lee and Toussaint (with backing vocals by AT) it had some popularity in regional markets like Philadelphia.

As I mentioned earlier, Toussaint had a habit of sticking with singers he liked, and Willie Harper was near the top of that list. Toussaint wrote and produced Harper’s 1962 two-sider ‘But I Couldn’t’ b/w ‘A New Kind of Love’, which was a minor regional hit in Chicago. A few years later, he would record Harper for Sansu, as a solo, and together as the duos Willie and Allen and the Rubaiyats.

Edridge Holmes has long been one of my favorite singers, and his discography is made up almost exclusively of records he made with Allen Toussaint. ‘Emperor Jones’, recorded in 1965 is a great example of Toussaint’s ability to keep his ears open to sounds outside of the Crescent City. Written and recorded in New Orleans by two natives of the city, ‘Emperor Jones’ sounds every bit of a Curtis Mayfield production from Chicago.

Toussaint turned his ear even further north for Irma Thomas’s 1965 ‘What Are You Trying to Do’, which is as close he got to the Motown sound.

Diamond Joe’s 1967 ‘Gossip Gossip’ is the record that made me into a New Orleans fanatic back in the day. I first heard it on a Charly Records comp and it blew my mind. It was the first original Sansu 45 that I bought and remains today a bona fide lost classic. It is largely unknown outside of New Orleans, yet it is – at least in my opinion – among the first rank of 1960s soul 45s, with an amazing performance by Diamond Joe and a stunning arrangement by Toussaint (that’s him talking at the beginning of the record).

Betty Harris was not originally from New Orleans, but aside from a few early 45s, she worked almost exclusively in that city, under the auspices of Allen Toussaint. Though their 1967 collaboration ‘Nearer To You’ was their only chart hit, they made many of the finest records to come out of New Orleans in the 60s. ‘Trouble With My Lover’ is a great bit of proto-funk, featuring thumping bass and drums, and a remarkable vocal by Harris.

The O’Jays had their first big hit with their 1965 cover of ‘Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)’ which despite the greatness of Benny Spellman’s original, remains my favorite version of the song.

The next two tracks are both sides of the only 45 ever recorded by the Rubaiyats, aka Allen Toussaint and Willie Harper. I had to include both sides of the record since they include one of the best upbeat soul sides that Toussaint ever made, ‘Omar Khayyam’ as well as the beautiful ballad ‘Tomorrow’. These are followed by the same duo under their own names, aka ‘Willie and Allen’, with the slow, almost dreamlike ‘I Don’t Need Nobody’.

Next up are a couple of inspired covers of tunes from the Toussaint catalog, with Joe Williams 1966 cover of Lee Dorsey’s ‘Get Out Of My Life Woman’ (another song that was covered dozens of times) and Bettye Lavette’s 1969 R&B hit cover of Betty Harris’s ‘Nearer To You’.

John Williams and the Tick Tocks made two excellent 45s with Toussaint for the Sansu label. ‘Blues Tears and Sorrows’ from 1967 is one of the finest soul ballads that Toussaint ever wrote, with a great vocal by Williams, yet another great singer who never hit outside of New Orleans.

Willie West’s 1970 ‘Fairchild’ is not only one of the coolest things Toussaint ever wrote or recorded, but it had fair amount of mystery attached to it, in which it was suspected that the promo and the stock copies had different mixes. No less an authority than Matt ‘Mr Finewine’ Weingarden informs me that this is NOT the case. The rumor started when CD reissues of ‘Fairchild’ came out with the wrong master (stripped of the horns). As far as I know nobody has a definitive answer as to the provenance of the secondary master, but it never saw (nor was it intended to see) the light of day on vinyl.

Aside from a very solid vocal by West, the record also includes a sound that Toussaint would make a lot of use of around that time, acoustic guitar. It was used prominently here, on his masterful and imaginative arrangement of Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ for Eldridge Holmes (another personal favorite) and again on Lee Dorsey’s ‘Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky (From Now On)’.

Oddly enough, despite the fact that Willie Harper was a Toussaint favorite, and ‘A Certain Girl’ a Toussaint song, his 1968 recording of it was produced and arranged by Wardell Quezerque.

Lee Dorsey’s late 60s/early 70s funky 45s are some of the most interesting things that Toussaint worked on. Often featuring the Meters, and employing unusual arrangements – like the borderline psychedelic funk of ‘Give It Up’, these records mark the collaboration of Toussaint and Dorsey as a particularly fruitful one.

That said, the next two songs were originally part of that collaboration. The Pointer Sisters 1973 version of ‘Yes We Can Can’ was their first big hit and had become a funk 45 standard.

Robert Palmer’s version of ‘Sneaking Sally Through the Alley’ comes from his 1974 debut, which featured contributions from the Meters and Little Feat. His funky version of ‘Sneaking Sally Through the Alley’ was originally part of a long medley with Little Feat’s ‘Sailing Shoes’ and Palmer’s own ‘Hey Julia’ that you ought to check out when you get a chance.

‘Hercules’ is known to most folks via the original recording by Aaron Neville, but I really dig Boz Scaggs little-heard 1974 take on the song, one of Toussaint’s best.

Esther Phillips’ version of Toussaint’s ‘From a Whisper To a Scream’ from her 1972 album of the same name is a reworking of Toussaint’s original version from his 1970 LP (also of the same name). It’s really interesting to hear Phillips, a truly great singer work her way through the emotional ups and downs of the song.

The mix closes out with Allen Toussaint’s original version of the song that Glen Campbell had a megahit with in 1977, ‘Southern Nights’. Toussaint’s original, from 1975 is a long way from the upbeat singalong of Campbell’s version, sounding more like a lullaby, with his vocals sounding like they were channeled through a Leslie speaker, giving it a dreamlike feel.

While this selection is by no means comprehensive, hopefully it will provide a doorway into Toussaint’s long and amazing discography.

I hope you dig it, and that you take the time tonight to raise a glass in honor of a brilliant man.

See you on Friday.

Keep the faith





Also, the brand new Funky16Corners ‘Keep Calm and Stay Funky’ stickers have arrived! The stickers are 4″ x 3″ and printed on high quality, glossy stock. They are $2.00 each, with free shipping in the US ($2.00 per order shipping outside of the US). Click here to go to the ordering page.

Also, make sure that you check out the links below to the Be The Match Foundation and POAC (click on the logos for more info).


Example Example

PS Head over to Iron Leg too.

11 Responses to “Allen Toussaint 1938 – 2015”

  1. john says:

    god bless man; this is a lovely tribute to an amazing man.

  2. Ciaran says:

    Thanks for posting this great tribute, during which I did raise my glass in his memory.

  3. John says:

    Thank you for this. I saw him in concert twice in recent years, and it was such a treat.

  4. Lex Jansen says:

    Thanks for posting this. He will be missed a lot.

  5. MingusAl says:

    What a loss and what a great life in music. He will be missed. Thank you for the marvelous compilation One thing I encourage people to look out for (I think its on YouTube and available on DVD) is the documentary “Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together” featuring New Orleans masters Toussaint, Tuts Washington, and Professor Longhair together. All gone now.

  6. David says:

    This is a wonderful tribute to one of America’s greatest songwriters. I love what you put together. Thank you so much for this heartfelt effort, as well as all the great music you share on your site. RIP Allen Toussaint, you will be missed. We are fortunate that your music will live on.

    lastly, can anyone inform me how i can download this mix. I am drawing a blank. Thanks in advance.

  7. Larry says:

    If you’re on a PC, right click on the link and select ‘download’. I’m not sure what to do on a Mac.

  8. David says:

    thanks Larry – i have this new Mac, trying to figure it out. Regardless, thanks for all you do with sharing this great music. I am really moved by your fantastic Toussaint mix. Thanks again.. see you down the road…

  9. Larry says:

    You’re quite welcome! Enjoy!

  10. Kristin says:

    David, just right click on the link and choose “save link as…”, then save file to your computer as an mp3 file. When you click on it to play, iTunes should load it automatically.

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