There is no end to Allen Toussaint’s influence. He worked with Lee Dorsey throughout most of his career in different roles, producer, arranger, songwriter whilst Dorsey slipped in and out of his car repair business. Dorsey served in the US Navy in World War II, was a prize fighter and a nightclub singer but over a ten year period in the sixties he had some major US hits. The Toussaint produced Ya Ya hit No.1 on the R&B chart in 1961 (No.7 on the Pop chart). Ride My Pony, Get Out Of My Life Woman, Working In The Coal Mine and Holy Cow were all Toussaint Top Tens in the R&B chart making 28/44/8 and No.23 on the Pop chart in 1966. After this Dorsey’s Pop chart success was limited but he still made it with the R&B crowd – No.31 with Go Go Girl in 1967, Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On) reached No. 33 in 1969 and Yes We Can No. 46 in 1970. (Note that it was The Meters that played on these records). Yes We Can Can (with the added “Can”) was also a major hit for the Pointer Sisters from their debut album in 1973 reaching No.11 on the US chart.
But how does all this connect with John Lennon? In 1970 John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band released their debut studio album. It was arguably Lennon’s greatest achievement featuring Working Class Hero, the cathartic Mother and other stand out tracks such as Isolation, Love and God. According to The Beatles Bible whilst recording Well Well Well – “Ringo Starr claimed in a 1973 interview that Lennon had played Lee Dorsey’s 1969 single Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On) “a hundred times’ to get the spirit he wanted.” Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On) was written and produced by Allen Toussaint. Toussaint produced Dorsey’s first single Ya Ya for Fury Records and Ya Ya was recorded by Lennon on his Rock ‘N’ Roll album in 1975, with a brief excerpt on Walls And Bridges with Julian Lennon as a child banging on the drums in 1974.
I find that the influences of our heroes are often not enjoyed by the fans – for example Lou Reed fans probably struggled with Dion as did Def Leppard fans with Mott The Hoople but different generations don’t care so much about the evolution or the initial inspiration of the artist especially when it doesn’t sound much like the artist they like. What counts is the ‘now’ but ironically mostly everything ‘now’ is firmly rooted in the past.
A final note on the picture of Lee Dorsey with a cigarette; Born on Christmas Eve 1924, Dorsey died of emphysema on the first of December 1985 aged 61.