This Cover Of Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” Is Devastatingly Good

Whitney, the Chicago band that features members of Smith Westerns, pays tribute to the late songwriting legend.

November 13, 2015

Earlier this week, Allen Toussaint suffered a heart attack while on tour in Spain. Not long afterwards, the New Orleans-born legend passed away; he was 77. While he was maybe best known as an old-school R&B hit-maker and behind-the-scenes studio character, he also had a extensive, criminally overlooked collection of solo recordings.

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Whitney, the relatively new Chicago band that floored us at this year's FADER FORT, recorded a cover of "Southern Nights," a track from Toussaint's 1975 solo album of the same name. The original, which was later turned into a chart-topping country song, is gut-wrenching. The lyrics are about Toussaint's childhood—balmy nights spent telling stories under a star-covered Louisiana sky. Have you ever felt a southern night? he sings. Free as a breeze, not to mention the trees/ Whistling tunes that you know and love so.

Whitney's very soulful cover, the B-side of a forthcoming single, was recorded prior to Toussaint's death—but not long before. The timing is spooky, almost. "A few months ago, my dad sent me an email saying 'I heard this song that reminded me of you,' and he attached 'Southern Nights,'" drummer and vocalist Julien Ehrlich told The FADER in an email.

"I had never even heard of him, but I freaked out and showed it to everyone in the band. We recorded this cover the week after that," Ehrlich added. "We all grew very attached to his catalogue in the last few months. Getting to know the reach that he had—and everything that he put his touch on—was crazy inspiring for us. When we saw that he had passed, we decided we would release this cover in honor and in memory of what he gave us." Man, we're glad they did.

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This Cover Of Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” Is Devastatingly Good