Allen Toussaint (1938 – 2015)

“I write every day…I collect a lot of scraps everywhere I go. Little pieces here, and little wishbones and feathers there, and then I get home and try and make a chicken.”

 That’s the metaphor Allen Toussaint used to describe the craft of songwriting to us back when we interviewed him in June 2013. We’ve spoken to many writers over the last four years, and we’re hard-pressed to think of a more charming iteration of the process than that one. But, of course, Toussaint was the epitome of charm. It was present in abundance in every song he wrote, every piano lick he played, and every exquisitely tailored suit he wore.

Allen Toussaint receives the National Medal of Arts and Humanities from President Barack Obama in 2012.

What came across most strongly during our encounter with him, however, was his personal charm. He was the quintessential ‘Southern gentleman’ – nattily-dressed, unfailingly polite, eloquent, and boundlessly enthusiastic about music (even after over 50 years in the business). To put it another way, Allen was a dream interviewee, everything we hoped he would be, and his episode remains one of our firm personal favourites.

Sodajerker On Songwriting, Episode 41 with Allen Toussaint

 

There was one particular piece of sage advice he dispensed towards the end of our time with him that now carries an even greater weight and significance. In the wake of his sad passing, it’s inescapably tinged with sadness. However, like the incredibly rich musical legacy Allen Toussaint leaves behind, it’s ultimately positive and life-affirming.

“Just notice it all, and don’t let moments and scenes pass you by without noticing. Enjoy the journey on the way there…At a red light, rather than just wait ‘til the light changes, look around and see what’s goin’ on here. Once you leave here, this is gone. It may have offered you something that, if you were just looking at the light, you would’ve missed it.”

Rest in peace, sir.

Allen Toussaint

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