In a sordid world of rock and roll, one of the initial pioneers, Fats Domino was unique. He was a leader in a genre in which he shied away from the associated stereotypical lifestyle
Fats Domino has died aged 89, in his hometown of Louisiana, of natural causes. Mark Bone, Jefferson Parish Medical Examiner’s Office’s Chief Investigator confirmed that the music legend and rock and roll pioneer had passed away on October 24.
Domino both pioneered the rock and roll sound and remained a devoted family man, spending his entire life living close to his childhood home. New Orleans view the musical legend as a local treasure, his authentic devotion to the Dixieland rhythms of his childhood formed the backbone of his entire musical career.
Musical legend and family man
Music was his life and flowed through his blood, but at the same time, it was his means to support his wife and eight children. One of the marital celebrity anomalies, Domino was married to the same woman for 60 years. He survived his beloved wife Rosemary by almost a decade.
Humble, quiet and soft-spoken, to the unaware, one would never realize the monumental legacy to rock and roll that he had created. During his lifetime he had 35 albums in the US charts, and altogether he sold over 65 million records. Additionally, he was one of the first musicians to ever be added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Born as Antoine Dominique Domino Jr, he gained the Fats title due to his similarity with other pianists gone past, such as Fats Pichon and Fats Waller. It would be at the tender age of 14 that he began playing bars in New Orleans. He got his first career break when Billy Diamond would invite him to play piano for his band, for a meager $3 per week.
Instant musical success
Domino’s playing quickly caught the attention of Imperial Records in 1949, where he would co-write The Fat Man with Dave Bartholomew. This became an instant hit selling around a million copies, and many consider this to have been the first rock and roll song ever to achieve this level of popularity. Ultimately, in 2015, the song entered the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Countless hits would follow, including Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That a Shame. During the 1950s, the only artist to achieve more hits than Domino would be Elvis Presley. However, despite his immense fame, Domino remained humble, and possibly even oblivious to the effect he had on the public. When riots broke out at his concerts, he assumed it was something to do with the audience. He couldnt believe it had anything to do with the influence of his playing.
But Domino’s playing influenced more than his audience. Countless musical legends describe him as being one of their core influences. The Beatles endlessly sang his praises. Domino would return the favor by recording a cover of the Beatles Lady Madonna in 1971. Led Zeppelin would also cover Blueberry Hill, and Billy Joel would extol his gratitude to Domino for proving that the piano was indeed a rock and roll instrument.
Fears as Domino went missing during Hurricane Katrina
Domino would retire from the music industry in 1996, and fall back into comfortable obscurity as a family man. However, he suddenly returned to public consciousness when he went missing during 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Feared dead, a painful three days went by before his daughter recognized him in a picture sitting on his home’s rooftop.
With a new lease of life, he released an album Alive and Kickin’ to benefit the Tipitina’s Foundation. The Tipitina’s Foundation supports local New Orleans musicians who make music in the authentic New Orleans style. Domino also returned to public performances in 2007, after overcoming the anxiety that stalled an attempt in 2006.
Tributes poured in for Domino when the media broke the news of his passing. Billy Bragg tweeted “So long Fats. One of the greats.” Author Stephen King said “Here’s hoping Fats gets a real New Orleans send-off, Dixieland band and all. So sorry he’s gone, so glad for his tunes.” Harry Connick Jr shared this tweet: “RIP Fats Domino. You helped pave the way for New Orleans piano players. See you on top of that blueberry hill in the sky.”