Fats Domino, the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer whose hits include “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” has died. He was 89. New Orleans station WWL-TV confirmed the news, noting that Domino’s daughter said he died peacefully, surrounded by friends and family.
Domino was born on Feb. 26, 1928, in New Orleans, the city he called home for most of his life. He died in nearby Harvey, La., but made his name in Crescent City, where he got his start recording R&B records in the late ’40s. His first big hit, “The Fat Man,” was released in 1949 and set him on a course for the approaching decade. Before he even reached the pop chart, he had placed a dozen songs in the R&B Top 10.
He scored his first crossover single in the early ’50s but hit his peak just as rock ‘n’ roll music was breaking out across the country. His first Top 10 song, “Ain’t That a Shame,” in 1955 gave way to dozens more hit singles over the next decade. He scored 10 more Top 10 songs over the next five years, including “Blueberry Hill,” “Blue Monday,” “I’m Walkin'” and “Walking to New Orleans.”
During his peak years, he played piano on sessions for other R&B artists like Lloyd Price and Joe Turner. His last charting single came in 1968 with a cover of the Beatles‘ “Lady Madonna.” It was a fitting end to an impressive run that included more than 75 charting singles. The Beatles, along with pretty much every other group that formed over the next decade, were hugely influenced by Domino.
Over the years, everyone from fellow rock ‘n’ roll architect Elvis Presley to Cheap Trick to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers covered his songs, most of which he wrote with his producer Dave Bartholomew. Domino’s work was so influential and his music so important to rock ‘n’ roll’s formative years that he was part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 1986 along with other legends like Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Domino refused to relocate from the area because his wife was sick. Rumors surfaced at the time that Domino was killed in a flood, but in fact he had to be rescued by helicopter. Recordings and appearances have been rare and sporadic over the past few decades, though he did show up as himself on an episode of HBO’s New Orleans-set Treme in 2012.
Tributes have already started pouring in from fans like David Coverdale and Vernon Reid.
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