Allen Toussaint: Overture of My Life

Image of a keyboard.

Antonio de la Mano/ Flickr

Very unexpectedly, the great composer, arranger and pianist so representative of New Orleans Culture has passed away- November 10th, in his hotel in Madrid, following a performance in the Spanish capital.

What a shock! Though seventy-seven years of age, this maestro of all things pianistic; and all emotions Human (high and low), cannot really have departed this realm– how can this loss be possible? But wait! We have the music! The songs- “Don’t You just know It?” “Fortune Teller?” “Working In a Coal Mine?” The elegies– “Southern Nights,” “Louisiana Suite,” “Freedom for the Stallion?”

My greatest piano mentor, Dick Heintze- a Tidewater keyboard genius gone since 1986 –  was an Army buddy of Mister Toussaint; he swore the bubbling Allen steered his life’s path on to the ‘ivories.’

That is the warm, generous manner of the good Monsieur. Seldom without a smooth suit, tie and silk scarf, he spun his magic one night a few years ago for my dear companion and me, in a darkened Blues Alley (save for one crimson spot). Spinning a heartfelt memory of beloved Grandparents rocking on the old oaken porch under a bayou moon, the great Toussaint then led us through “Southern Nights,” and left us in tears of joyful remembrance of the way things once had been.


with syncopation, a lilt, a sigh.
Like the roman Candy Calliope man,
rolling down Prytaina Street;
Your horse bells ringin’ in time.
we all smiled, didn’t we.
Waitin’ at the station till a
quarter to nine, and then
The train pulled in, with Sehorn, Querzergue,
and the Nevilles along too.
Toodle-oo, whoop-tidoo.
all the rhymin’ chimin’ Nola’
World will honor you. and I feel
that no graveyard is big enough to
Hold your spirit down in the ground!
Monsieur Toussaint: Hear!
our venerations of what you gave
All the world, not only that of bright
Music, but the words that Reverberate
in the heart and soul;
every day and every moonlit night.

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