Allen Toussaint

The Dean of New Orleans Music

Allen Toussaint says he’d rather let his piano do the talking. Lucky for us.

Toussaint’s fingers have done the talking on song after song for more than 50 years, defining the modern-day New Orleans sound.

In 2013, Toussaint was awarded the National Medal of Arts in recognition of his influence in preserving and advancing the music of New Orleans.

During the first year of Music Inside Out, we produced three different hours that focused on Allen Toussaint’s work.

Striking A Chord With Allen Toussaint

credit: Sarah Mulligan/Flickr
credit: Sarah Mulligan/Flickr

Allen Toussaint has written, produced and arranged chart-topping hits for scores of artists. And lately, Toussaint has been performing his catalog more often around the world.

Check out his major chords. And the minor ones, too.

The Collaborations

 For half a century, New Orleans producer, arranger, and songwriter has given entertainers around the world something to sing about.

He’s written R&B, funk, jazz, rock and country. And he’s learned a few things along the way. Toussaint shares his creative insights with Music Inside Out. Lesson Number One: The artist is king… or queen.

“The song is totally secondary,” he tells Gwen Thompkins. “And whatever musicians I put behind them and the atmosphere that I set up is to put them in an atmosphere where they can be most creative, and feel wonderful about themselves and deliver that.”

He says he wants to hear his collaborators soar. And they do.

The National Medal of Arts

White House photo
White House photo

Allen Toussaint received the National Medal of Arts on 10 July 2013 in a ceremony at the White House. The medal is the United States government’s highest award for artists and patrons of the arts.

Toussaint was cited for “his contributions as a composer, producer and performer. Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint has built a legendary career alongside America’s finest musicians, sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues, and lifting it to the national stage.”

Today, we’re jumping at the chance to celebrate the artist and his work. Gwen spoke with Allen Toussaint at his home, at his piano.