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He had one of the greatest names in music–Antoine “Fats” Domino--and he was early into the game and making R&B and rock & roll history before most of us were out of grade school. Born and raised in New Orleans, French Creole by background, Fats had five gold records before 1955. Among his hits were “Ain’t that a Shame”, “Blueberry Hill”, “Walking to New Orleans”. He is considered one of the most influential musicians in American history, won a National Medal of the Arts, was one of the first inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, picked up a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and was loved by everyone from The Beatles to Elvis and Norah Jones. Fats was important enough to music that Paul McCartney wrote a tribute to him.
Domino had a very unique style of music, part bar room, part boogie woogie, part R&B and part Rock&Roll and it was his combination of all these elements, and the flow through him and his music of of the spiritual/musical gumbo that is New Orleans that created an early, important, and key figure in the development of American music. He was, in short, an original in both music and personality. Domino hated to travel (he said he couldn’t get any food that he liked) and toured very little in the later stages of his life; his royalty income from recordings supported him. He did record and if you paid close attention, you could find him playing in New Orleans–almost always at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
Fats was a home boy, and he liked to live, eat, play and perform in NOLA. During Hurricane Katrina, Domino refused to leave his home, worried about the condition of his wife, who was very ill. The house flooded rather severely and Domino dropped out of communication for several days, leading the news to report that he had passed away.
He did not. Fats resurfaced, and recorded an album, Alive and Kickin (a bit of a nudge back to the press that had declared him gone)to benefit a New Orleans foundation for indigent musicians. There will be a lot of tributes to Fats over the next few days, but the very best way to appreciate him is to listen to music; use this link from the Los Angeles Times to hear their selection of his best songs.
Fats Domino, who was humble and shy, never received all of the acclaim he was due but you can get an idea of the true importance of the man by clicking to this story from NPR.
And, one last tribute–a short video of Fats performing in 2007, right after Katrina. This particular video is included because of the sound quality, but the video is also pretty good and it’s got some interviews that are fun. Bump it to the flat screen and turn it up. It’s good music and it’ll take you right into the amazing world of Antoine “Fats” Domino.
Thanks, Fats, for the memories and the music.
The Fine Print: Video embed courtesy of our friends at YouTube, who probably have what you’re looking for in video, no matter what you’re looking for. This video is from a DVD and documentary on Domino; this particular selection came from a concert for Tipitina’s Foundation, which supports New Orleans musicians. The cut is titled “Walking Back to New Orleans”. All rights belong to the respective rights holders and we thank them (and our friends at YouTube) for sharing. Turn it up.
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