Fats Domino, rock’n’roll pioneer, dies aged 89

Pianist who sold 110m records including Blueberry Hill was warm, fun-loving, spiritual, creative and humble you dont get more New Orleans than that

Fats Domino, the New Orleans rhythm and blues singer whose hits include Blueberry Hill and Aint That a Shame, has died aged 89 of natural causes.

Domino, born in 1928 and one of nine siblings, left school at 14 to take on work in a bedspring factory but went on to sell over 110m records in a career that took off in the mid-1950s, having learned piano on an upright a cousin left in his New Orleans family home.

As his name suggests, he was frank about his 200lb frame. In his first recorded song, The Fat Man (1949), he sang that despite (or perhaps because of) his size, all the girls, they love me, cause I know my way around it became a million-seller. With his distinctive gelled and flattened hairstyle, he would sometimes play the piano standing up, slamming his body against it to push it across the stage in time with the music.

He became one of the first black performers to feature on pop music television shows, appearing alongside the likes of Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. But as rocknroll gave way to the guitar pop of the Beatles and others in the 1960s, American tastes changed, and his popularity started to dwindle. He didnt chase fashion, however. I refused to change, he once said. I had to stick to my own style that Ive always used or it just wouldnt be me.

Fats Domino pictured in 2008. Photograph: Sean Gardner/WireImage
His style was of rolling waltz-time ballads and pounding uptempo numbers, and the best known of his songs is perhaps Blueberry Hill, later selected for the Library of Congresss National Recording Registry which recognises songs worthy of preservation. Originally written in 1940 and recorded by Louis Armstrong, Dominos seductively smooth version became the most famous; even Vladimir Putin covered it at a charity dinner in 2010.

Domino also was one of the first ever inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and, in 1998, the first rocknroll musician to be awarded the National Medal for the Arts.

He lived in New Orleans all his life, and was badly affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 he had to be rescued by boat along with his family, losing three pianos and dozens of gold and platinum records. But he would occasionally still appear in the citys blues clubs right up until 2007. He and his wife Rosemary, who died in 2008, brought up eight children together.

His friend David Lind described him as warm, fun-loving, spiritual, creative and humble. You dont get more New Orleans than that.

LLCOOLJ. (@llcoolj)

I found my thrill on blueberry hill… that line inspired me to dream. #Fatsdomino rest eternally

October 25, 2017

Various stars have already paid tribute to him. LL Cool J said on Twitter, I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill that line inspired me to dream, Kid Rock called him a true American treasure, while songwriter Damien Jurado wrote: There would have been no rock n roll, Jamaican ska, or rocksteady, had it not been for the major influence of Fats Domino. Brian Wilson, Stephen King, Samuel L Jackson and Harry Connick Jr have also tweeted their respects.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/oct/25/fats-domino-new-orleans-rock-n-roll-pioneer-dies-aged-89

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