New Orleans music icon Allen Toussaint, whose honors include induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a National Medal of Arts award, died Monday in Europe, according to reports. He was 77.
Toussaint was on tour in Spain and died after a performance Monday, WWL-TV reported. The tour included planned stops in Madrid, Belgium and London, according to The New Orleans Advocate.
A songwriter, pianist, producer, arranger and late-blooming front man, Toussaint was honored many times throughout his career. President Barack Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts in 2013, and Toussaint was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Other honors include a Grammy Trustees Award in 2009, Grammy nominations and his 2011 induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2013, the New Orleans Music Legends Park unveiled a statue of Toussaint. That same year, Tulane University awarded him an honorary doctorate.
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Even if Toussaint had never stepped on a stage, his place in music would be secure. Before his late-blooming career as a performer, he’d already written and/or produced and arranged for, to name a few, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, The Pointer Sisters, The Band, Glen Campbell and Bonnie Raitt.
But then came a new chapter: entertainer. After Hurricane Katrina forced Toussaint to leave the city he loved dearly, he relocated, temporarily, to New York City. It was a blessing in disguise. Performing at Joe’s Pub in New York opened the door to a new world. After spending decades behind the scenes, Toussaint suddenly became the front man and developed the solo act that he took all over the world.
Toussaint is survived by his two children and several grandchildren, WWL reported. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Last week, the New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, which Toussaint and other New Orleans musicians helped launch in 1985, announced that Toussaint and Paul Simon would be the headliners for a benefit concert Dec. 8.