NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Legendary New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint passed away unexpectedly one year ago this week while on tour in Spain.
In one way or another, Toussaint was the architect of a staggering number of local and national hits that came out of New Orleans. Starting in the late 1950s, he found success with fellow legends Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, and a string of others.
Known around the world for his dapper style and gentlemanly demeanor, Toussaint’s death sent shockwaves throughout the New Orleans music community.
Clarence “Reginald” Toussaint, Allen Toussaint’s son, bandmate, and musical collaborator, said fans of his father’s work have gone out of their way in the past year to ease the Toussaint family’s pain.
From text messages from fellow musicians to strangers stopping him on the street or leaving messages on Facebook, Clarence Toussaint said people reach out to him nearly every day to tell heartwarming stories about his father.
“Those things really take you away from being really sad at that moment,” Clarence Toussaint said. “He loved New Orleans, and New Orleans really loved him. That love has actually trickled down to my family. The fans are showing us the love they showed him.”
Clarence said he and his sister, Alison Toussaint-LeBeaux, who both worked with their father on a daily basis, love to hear stories of Allen Toussaint’s frequent spontaneous acts of kindness.
“I made a statement one time that my father didn’t always make the best business decisions, but he made great humanitarian decisions,” Clarence said. “It wasn’t about dollars and cents. Someone would tell him about a birthday party, and he would show up and play! He would be walking down the street, and somebody would have something going on, and he just crashed the party and hung out for a while. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories like that.”
Clarence, who played percussion in his father’s band, has kept that band together for frequent performances and tributes over the past year. With the addition of New Orleans piano player Joe Krown, who Clarence credits with adding to the band, rather than trying to replace Allen Toussaint, the band toured pretty much nonstop until recently.
“It came to a point where we needed to shut down for a minute,” Clarence said. “My sister and I, and the rest the family, we kind of needed to breathe. There was no break for us from the moment he died to the last show we did at the Hollywood Bowl.”
The band and family needed time to process what had been going on, but Clarence said they will go out to spread his father’s music again as soon as the time is right.
Above all things, Clarence said the Toussaint family is thankful to everyone who has helped them through the past year.
“We continue to thank the world at large, but we really want to thank his hometown of New Orleans for the love and respect they have shown my father and the honor of caring about him, and sharing that love with us as well,” he said. “We are very appreciative.”
Take a look at some of the times WGNO was lucky enough to sit down with Allen Toussaint: