Fats Domino dies at 89; gave rock a New Orleans flavor
NEW ORLEANS — 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, has died. He was 89.
Mark Bone, chief investigator with the Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, coroner’s office, said Domino died of natural causes early Tuesday.
In appearance, he was no matinee idol. He stood 5- feet- 5 and weighed more than 200 pounds, with a wide, boyish smile and a haircut as flat as an album cover. But Domino sold more than 110 million records, with hits including “Blueberry Hill,” ‘’Ain’t That a Shame” — originally titled “Ain’t It A Shame”— and other standards of rock ‘n’ roll.
He was one of the first 10 honorees named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Rolling Stone Record Guide likened him to Benjamin Franklin, the beloved old man of a revolutionary movement.
“We’ve lowered the flag and we’re playing his music all day,” said Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Fats is the godfather of rock and roll,” Harris said.
“On behalf of the people of New Orleans, I am eternally grateful for his life and legacy,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release Wednesday morning. “Fats Domino added to New Orleans’ standing in the world, and what people know and appreciate about New Orleans.”
“I can’t wrap my arms around him being gone,” said Quint Davis, producer of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and a decadeslong friend of Domino. He said only two people from New Orleans have changed the music of the world: jazz legend Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino.
Little Richard, another founding father of rock ‘n’ roll, said in a phone interview, “He was one of my greatest inspirations. God was tops — but earthly, Fats was it ...
“He could play jazz. He could play anything,” he said. “He was one of the greatest entertainers that I’ve ever known.”
His 1956 version of “Blueberry Hill” was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of historic sound recordings worthy of preservation.
Fats Domino is remembered as the rock pioneer whose pounding piano and easy baritone changed popular music.