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Music legend Fats Domino dies at 89

11/3/2017, 1:39 a.m.
Before the likes of Little Richard and Elvis Presley, Fats Domino helped usher in the era of rock ‘n’ roll ...

Free Press wire reports

NEW ORLEANS

Before the likes of Little Richard and Elvis Presley, Fats Domino helped usher in the era of rock ‘n’ roll with a pounding piano and an easy baritone that proved popular among all ages.

The pioneering singer-songwriter and musician, best known for such hits as “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” died Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in his native Crescent City. He was 89.

Born Antoine Domino Jr. in February 1928, he earned his nickname from his girth — he weighed more than 200 pounds — and his first hit, “Fat Man,” a 1949 recording that became the first rock ‘n’ roll song to sell 1 million copies.

Small in stature at 5-foot-5, he went on to become a giant of popular music.

Mr. Domino’s music went viral, selling more than 110 million copies during his lifetime of standards like “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and “I’m Walkin’. ”

Five of the recordings he made before 1955, when Mr. Presley’s first recording hit the airwaves, were certified as gold records for sales topping 1 million copies. During his career, he had 35 records on Billboard’s Top 40 list.

Known for his wide, boyish smile and a haircut as flat as an album cover, he won fans across racial lines with a musical style based on traditional rhythm and blues, accompanied by saxophones, bass, piano, electric guitar and drums and the thumping beat of his piano.

Even after Mr. Presley began his meteoric rise, he acknowledged the influence of Mr. Domino, who remained Mr. Presley’s top rival with his oversized persona, dance hall music style and songs of love and home.

Mr. Domino was one of the first 10 honorees named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and he has since been inducted into virtually every other popular music hall of fame.

His dynamic performances and warm vocals drew crowds for five decades. On stage, he often played a grand piano while standing, throwing his body against the big instrument in sync with the beat of the music.

Mr. Domino’s 1956 version of “Blueberry Hill” was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of historic sound recordings worthy of preservation.

Mr. Domino stayed true to his hometown. In the 1980s, he stopped touring, claiming he could not get the food he liked outside New Orleans. Even a 1998 invitation to the White House did not persuade him to make an exception.

He was there when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, and he and his family had to be rescued from their mansion in the 9th Ward. He lost his home, three pianos, dozens of gold and platinum records and other memorabilia in the flood.

He rarely performed after that, but in May 2007, he delighted fans with an appearance at a New Orleans music club, where he played a litany of his hits. That performance was a highlight during several rough years, which included the death of his wife of more than 50 years, Rosemary, in April 2008.