Fats Domino, rock ‘n’ roll pioneer and ‘Blueberry Hill’ singer, dead at 89
Fats Domino, the amiable rock ‘n’ roll pioneer whose steady, pounding piano and easy baritone helped change popular music while honoring the traditions of the Crescent City, died Tuesday. He was 89.
Mark Bone, chief investigator with the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, coroner’s office, said Domino died of natural causes at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Fats Domino (1928 – 2017)
Fats Domino, the early rock ‘n’ roll superstar who sang enduring songs including “Blueberry Hill,” died Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 89.
“Blueberry Hill” was Domino’s biggest hit, occupying the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues Chart for 11 weeks in 1956. But the New Orleans native recorded several other well-known songs before and after “Blueberry Hill” sealed his fame, along the way profoundly influencing the development of rock ‘n’ roll with his rolling piano and suggestive lyrics.
1950’s “The Fat Man” was one of his early tracks, the first rock ‘n’ roll song to sell 1 million copies. “Ain’t That a Shame,” a rocker that Domino performed in the 1956 movie “Shake, Rattle and Rock!,” enjoyed moderate chart success before it was eclipsed by Pat Boone’s watered-down cover version. “I’m Walkin'” was another R&B chart-topper in 1957, which Ricky Nelson covered that same year.
Fats Domino Obituary
Born Antoine Domino Jr. Feb. 26, 1928, the son of French Creole parents, Domino grew up around music, watching his father play violin and learning piano from his brother-in-law. He spoke Louisiana Creole French before he learned English and was performing in New Orleans by the time he was 10. He was discovered by bandleader Billy Diamond while still in his teens, playing at a backyard barbecue. Domino joined Diamond’s band and got his first taste of musical success.
After an impressive string of singles in the 1950s, Domino continued to chart modestly in the 1960s, releasing songs including “Red Sails in the Sunset” and a cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna,” a tribute that must have been satisfying to a band that was influenced by the rock pioneer and even reportedly wrote that song in Domino’s style. “Ain’t That a Shame” was the first song John Lennon learned to play on the guitar, and both Lennon and Paul McCartney covered Domino songs in their solo careers.
Domino was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its 1986 inaugural group. Despite his legendary status, by the 1980s he was living by choice in a working-class neighborhood of New Orleans, opting to stay in the city that was home rather than touring extensively.
When 2005’s Hurricane Katrina hit Domino’s neighborhood hard, he chose to stay in the city with his ailing wife. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued Domino several days after Katrina’s landfall. He stated that his family “lost everything” in the disaster, and they lived in nearby Harvey, Louisiana, while their home was gutted and rehabbed. The work was helped by proceeds from a tribute album to Domino, “Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino,” featuring covers of his songs by musicians including McCartney, Willie Nelson and Elton John.
Domino won a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 1987, and he was honored with the National Medal of Arts, which President Bill Clinton presented to him in 1998. Domino was No. 25 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” in 2004. He was a member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Delta Music Hall of Fame.
Domino was preceded in death by his wife, Rosemary, in 2008.