Eighty-nine-year-old Antoine “Fats” Domino, the rock ‘n’ roll and boogie-woogie icon and legend of yesteryears, passed away Tuesday at his daughter’s home in suburban New Orleans due to natural causes, according to Mark Bone, Chief Investigator with the Jefferson Parish Medical Examiner’s office in Louisiana.
His daughter informed WWL-TV anchor Eric Paulsen that Domino died peacefully at home surrounded by family.
This is what celebrities had to say in their tribute to the star of the 1950s and 60s
I found My Thrill on ” Blueberry Hill”! RIP Fats Domino
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) October 25, 2017
RIP fats domino… you helped pave the way for new orleans piano players… see you on top of that blueberry hill in the sky ❤️🙏🏼❤️
— Harry Connick Jr (@HarryConnickJR) October 25, 2017
— The Soul Rebels (@SoulRebelsNOLA) October 25, 2017
We have lost a TRUE American treasure.
God bless you Fats!! RIP.https://t.co/Fgu25tRVf3
— Kid Rock (@KidRock) October 25, 2017
We lost a Rock and Roll legend today. Rest In Peace to the man Fats Domino!! Your music will live forever!!
— Darius Rucker (@dariusrucker) October 25, 2017
Fats Dominos was talented enough to get selected by Billy Diamond for his band the Solid Senders in only his second year into his teens. In fact, it was Billy Diamond who gave him the nickname “Fats,” inspired by Fats Waller and Fats Pichon and, of course, his expanding waistline.
The name stuck and became synonymous with the rock ‘n’ roll|boogie woogie legend, who took the 1950s and, to some extent the early 60s, by storm.
“I knew Fats from hanging out at a grocery store. He reminded me of Fats Waller and Fats Pichon,” Diamond said in an interview. “Those guys were big names and Antoine — that’s what everybody called him then — had just got married and gained weight. I started calling him ‘Fats’ and it stuck.”
It wasn’t too long before Fats gave his first signature hit “The Fat Man” co-written by himself and producer Dave Bartholomew for Imperial Records, selling a million copies of the record by 1951.
The Fats- Bartholomew combination followed it up with a number of hits that were almost always among the toppers of the R&B charts.
Not too long after that, his music made inroads into the pop charts as well, with “Ain’t That a Shame” (1955) reaching the Top Ten.
At a time when America was racially segregated, Fats’ music appealed as much to the whites, especially teenagers, as they did to African Americans. In fact, many white performers furthered their careers using his hits.
His 1956 record “Blueberry Hill” – a 1940 number by Vincent Rose, Al Lewis, and Larry Stock – not only reached the number 2 position in the Top 40 but also held on to the top spot on the R&B chart for 11 weeks. It proved to be his biggest hit, ever, with worldwide sales of over 5 million copies in 1956 and 1957.
Barring Elvis Presley, no singer sold more records in the 1950s than Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr.
“I liked that record ’cause I heard it by Louis Armstrong and I said, ‘That number gonna fit me,’ ” he is supposed to have told Offbeat. “We had to beg Lew Chudd for a while. I told him I wasn’t gonna make no more records till they put that record out. I could feel it, that it was a hit, a good record.”
When he was asked by a Hearst newsreel interviewer in 1957 as to how rock n roll started, Fats said, “Well, what they call rock ’n’ roll now is rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it for 15 years in New Orleans.”
In 1969, when Elvis Presley was addressed as “the king” by a reporter, he was quick to point across the room to Fats, who happened to be there at the time, saying, “There’s the real king of rock ’n’ roll.”
His hit singles “I’m Walkin,” “Valley of Tears,” “It’s You I Love” “Whole Lotta Loving”, “I Want to Walk You Home”, and “Be My Guest,” all made it to the Top 10 in the Pop charts between 1956 and 1959, with “When My Dreamboat Comes Home” reaching Pop number 14.
Fats’ golden run of hits met a rather abrupt end early in the 1960s when he switched over from the Imperial label to ABC-Paramount. Somehow, his Nashville recordings under the new label did not take off as anticipated, with just one hit to show for his efforts – a cover of the standard “Red Sails in the Sunset.”
His version of Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” was his last pop Top 100 performance in 1968. In 1982, though, he did give a country hit with “Whiskey Heaven.”
However, income from his continuing tours and royalties ensured a comfortable existence for the legendary singer of yesteryears.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in 1985 Fats had said, “I was lucky enough to write songs that carry a good beat and tell a real story that people could feel was their story, too — something that old people or the kids could both enjoy.”
Fats Domino was presumed dead when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005 until CNN reported that he and his family had been rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about his estate which became a casualty of the storm. “We lost everything,” is what he said at the time.
George W. Bush visited his home in 2006 in recognition of New Orleans’s cultural resilience following which Fats released “Alive and Kickin” that same year. The lyrics of the album’s title song starting with, “All over the country, people want to know / Whatever happened to Fats Domino,” then continued, “I’m alive and kicking and I’m where I wanna be.”
Antoine “Fats” Domino found his way into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 1986 and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1987. The National Medal of Arts award came in 1999 which was collected by his daughter Antoinette on his behalf at the White House.
Rolling Stone, which ranked him number 25 in the list of “Greatest Recording Artists of All Time,” had this to say about him:
“After John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Fats Domino and his partner, Dave Bartholomew, were probably the greatest team of songwriters ever. They always had a simple melody, a hip set of chord changes and a cool groove. And their songs all had simple lyrics; that’s the key. There are no deep plots in Fats Domino songs: “Yes, it’s me, and I’m in love again/Had no lovin’ since you know when/You know I love you, yes I do/And I’m savin’ all my lovin’ just for you.” It don’t get no simpler than that.”
Here’s how his fans reacted to his death
— Sofia Patel (@laramimi) October 25, 2017
— DORAINE LOUIS (@DORAINELOUIS) October 25, 2017
Fats Domino Dead at 89
R.I.P. Fat’s https://t.co/l8rQRYFezj
— Terry Diorio (@harry9100) October 25, 2017
— Ludvig (@elvondrake) October 25, 2017
RIP Antoine “Fats” Domino! The world will not forget you in a hurry!