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An Overlooked Pioneer: Fats Domino Dies Aged 89

Indie | Friday 3rd November 2017 | Miren

Domino was both a pioneer of rock n roll in the 1950’s and a figure in breaking down racial segregation in the United States.

It is commonly said that he was one of the first African American rock n roll artists to become popular with both black and white fans, who came together to appreciate his music. His unique style was a fusion of rhythm and blues complimented with piano, saxophones, electric guitar, bass and drums. Domino sold over 65 million records throughout his career, which was more than any other 1950’s artist in the genre apart from Elvis Presley.

Born in New Orleans, he began playing the piano aged 10 and performing in bars aged 14. Producer Dave Bartholomew discovered Domino and he was signed by Imperial Records in 1949. His first single, released that year was 'The Fat Man', which is frequently considered the first ever rock n roll song. His biggest hits occurred during his 14 years at Imperial Records; his most successful being his cover of 'Blueberry Hill' which sold over 5 million copies.

By 1963 Domino moved to ABC Paramount Records and his popularity ceased quickly. After two attempts at come-back records with Fats is Back in 1968 and Fats in 1970, Domino retired to his hometown of New Orleans. He was at his home in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Domino was rumoured dead but it later emerged that he had been airlifted out of his house by emergency services.

In 2007, he made his last public performance which was recorded for a film titled Fats Domino: Walkin’ Back to New Orleans. In the same year, an album called Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino was recorded by Paul McCartney, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Elton John, Robert Plant, Lenny Kravitz and Lucinda Williams.

It is suggested that Domino paved the way for future star Elvis Presley who commented that Domino and Bartholomew were making rock ‘n’ roll music before the term was even coined. When approached by a reporter in 1969, Presley rejected the title of the ‘King of Rock n Roll’ stating that Domino was " the real king of Rock n Roll". Some years later, Domino was listed in the 1986 rock n roll Hall of Fame along with Presley.

Domino had great influence on other musicians and genres; reports state that Paul McCartney wrote the Beatles song 'Lady Madonna' mirroring Dominos distinctive style.

The Ska genre of music was also influenced by Domino, the bounce from his song 'Be My Guest' is said to be the foundation of modern Jamaican music.

The rock n roll pioneer died on October  24 th 2017 from natural causes in his home in Louisiana. Although he was overlooked perhaps in the shadow of other rock & roll artists, his legacy remains as one of the great stars of the genre who contributed to breaking racial barriers in the United States and in music.

Here are 10 of Fats Domino's Greatest Hits:

Blue Monday

 Blueberry Hill

Jambalaya (On the Bayou) 

Whole Lotta Lovin’

 I’m in Love Again

 I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday

 I’m Walkin’

 I Want to Walk You Home

The Fat Man

Ain’t That a Shame

Image Credit: Image 1 // Image 2 // Image 3 // Image 4

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