Musician/songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint, who died while on tour in Madrid on November 11 at the age of 77, may not have been terrifically well known to the public at large, but that does not lessen the impact he had on R&B, soul, and jazz, especially in his home base of New Orleans. The Guardian called him “one of popular music’s great backroom figures,” and his hit compositions included “Java,” “I Like It Like That,” “Southern Nights,” “Working In The Coal Mine,” and more. It was only after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that Toussaint began to branch out as a touring live performer, serving as the Crescent City’s musical ambassador to the world. On November 20, New Orleans paid its final respects to Allen Toussaint with a respectful, capacity-crowd visitation and memorial at the city’s Orpheum Theater.
After the two-hour service had concluded, there was a touching coda: a brief but poignant “second line” funeral procession on Roosevelt Way featuring lively music by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Footage of this event has now been uploaded to the YouTube account of LPX Records, “a New Orleans based entertainment company with New Orleans music at its roots.” The clip shows the Preservation Hall musicians cycling through the sorrowful “Preservation Dirge” as Toussaint’s coffin is slowly carried out of the Orpheum and placed into the back of a hearse. Once this task is completed, and the vehicle proceeds down Roosevelt, the mood becomes celebratory, as the band breaks into “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble.” Although the procession lasted less than half an hour and did not reach Crescent Street, the “second line” is still a fitting tribute to a man who made such an impact on the city and the music world at large.