From 1992 to 2005 I was blessed to be assistant director of the Louisiana Music Commission, working under the excitable and inimitable Bernie Cyrus countered by the grace and wisdom of Chairman Ellis Marsalis. I can’t begin to describe what an amazing time it was. We had many discussions about the fragility of our music legacy, built upon so many older musicians. Despite the fact that in the 1990s we enjoyed another big run at the top of the charts due to the popularity of Louisiana-born pop, country, hiphop, and jazz stars of that decade, the music they played didn’t have the impact or potential longevity of our R&B and funk era, and nobody was more important to that legacy than Allen Toussaint.
If Louisiana music was a sport, Allen was our MVP. Nobody could touch him for his productivity and impact. As a songwriter he was peerless. As a musician he was uniquely gifted with his own distinctive piano style, horn arrangements, and sweet voice. As a writer his soul was a reflection of the Universe. Every song seemed connected to an optimistic spirituality that made saints blush of embarrassment for their inability to be so consistently good-hearted and inspiring.
A Bodhisattva is an enlightened spirit who forgoes Nirvana to share their gift with the material world. I realized many years ago that this was Allen—the Bodhisattva of New Orleans. This factor is one of the most meaningful reasons why I live here: this city, with all its paradoxes and dangers, produced Allen Toussaint.
In his 77th year, Allen’s spirit chose to join the light from which we all come. Our challenge is to endure without him, to remain optimistic about our roles and goals, and to stay connected. I know we can make it. I know that we can.
Thank you Mr. Toussaint.