- David Sanjek
(b New Orleans, LA, Jan 14, 1938; d Madrid, Nov 9, 2015). American songwriter, producer, arranger, pianist, and singer. It would be difficult to imagine what the repertoire of contemporary New Orleans–based popular music would be, were it not for the prolific pen of songwriter Allen Toussaint. He was responsible for the writing, and in many cases the production, of any number of the city’s best-known and best-loved songs, including “Mother-in-Law” (Ernie K-Doe), “Fortune Teller” (Bennie Spellman), “Working in the Coalmine” (Lee Dorsey), and “Ruler of my Heart” (Irma Thomas). Born in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans, Toussaint received his initial professional break at the age of 17 when he filled in for Huey “Piano” Smith in a performance by Earl King’s band. He soon thereafter recorded an album of instruments under the pseudonym Al Tousan, which included the popular “Java,” re-recorded by Al Hirt. Initially, Toussaint established a professional relationship with local entrepreneur Joe Banashak and wrote numerous songs for his Minit and Instant labels. After those concerns broke up, he formed a firm variously known as Tou-Sea, Sansu, Deesu, or Sansu along with Marshall Sehorn. They also co-founded the Sea-Saint recording studio in ...