Toussaint helps open Hallowbaloo 2013
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / email@example.com
“Well they say time loves a hero,
but only time will tell,
If he’s real, he’s a legend
If he ain’t, he’s a mouthpiece from hell”
— Lowell George, Little Feat
It’s safe to say that time has proved Allen Toussaint a musical hero, as the 35 years have shown since Little Feat released the album “Time Loves a Hero,” influenced by Toussaint’s smooth sound. The New Orleans artist’s contributions to funk, soul and rhythm and blues are substantial enough that one can imagine major holes in the edifice had he never existed.
Kickoff concert with John Cruz
» Where: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Museum of Art
HALLOWBALOO MUSIC + ARTS FESTIVAL
» Where: Nuuanu Avenue, Chinatown
With Mike Love, Paul Izak, Tubby Love and John Cannizzaro
» Where: Kapiolani Park Bandstand
In July, President Barack Obama honored Toussaint with the National Medal of Arts for his work as a composer, producer and performer, “sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues and lifting it to the national stage.”
“I’ve loved it all,” Toussaint said, serenely, reached by phone in his home city. “I’ve had a good upcoming with the music; the music chose me really early, and it has kept me company day and night ever since.”
Toussaint has created or shaped music for an impressive range of artists, from Lee Dorsey’s ’60s hit “Working in the Coalmine” to “River in Reverse” with Elvis Costello in 2006.
One of the most successful was “Southern Nights,” which Glen Campbell took to No. 1 on the Pop and Country charts in 1977.
Little Feat bandleader Lowell George covered Toussaint’s soulful “What Do You Want the Girl to Do?” in the ’70s, already well known as a track on Boz Scaggs’ monster hit album “Silk Degrees.”
Toussaint wrote the Pointer Sisters hit (and Obama campaign anthem) “Yes We Can (Can)” and produced Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” (a hit in 2009 for Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink). He’s been a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame since 1998.
On Saturday, Toussaint makes his Hawaii premiere, headlining the free Hallowbaloo Music and Arts Festival on Saturday, along with Australian roots musician, environmental champion and friend of Jack Johnson Xavier Rudd, and Hawaii’s John Cruz.
World-music DJ Quantic headlines an after-party; get tickets for the Chinatown club crawl to celebrate all night long.
TOUSSAINT’S TAKE on the course of musical history is upbeat, as is his prognostication for the city of New Orleans.
“Back then there was music everywhere, and there is music everywhere now,” he said, showing no sign of resentment for new musical forms. “It was wonderful then and it’s wonderful now. …
“I’ve always been on my way back to New Orleans.”
While Toussaint was more appreciated as a songwriter and producer until recent years, he retains a cheerful take on the path he took to legendary status.
“I never thought of longevity, how long things would be around or any kind of shelf life, anything like that,” he said. “I was just always having a very good time. …
“I’ve been in that zone behind the scenes, and it’s been a comfort zone. … But I must say that this new surge of recognition is very, very interesting, and I dearly appreciate it.”
On Sept. 24 Toussaint released “Songbook,” a live album DVD recorded at Joe’s Pub in New York, where Toussaint lived temporarily after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Toussaint said he’ll be sure to perform a medley of ’60s hits, including “A Certain Girl” (popularized by Ernie K-Doe, The Yardbirds and Warren Zevon), “Mother-in Law” and “Fortune Teller” (covered by the Rolling Stones, Hollies, The Who and, most recently, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, in 2007).
“To be out there performing before the people, that has been special,” he said.
“I was always trying to reach the people by way of recording and songs I wrote, and when I’m on stage, there they are right there — and to get the feedback from people is very, very rich.”