Rock ‘n’ roll legend Fats Domino, known for hits such as “Ain’t That A Shame,” “Blueberry Hill” and “Blue Monday,” died at the age of 89 on Tuesday. The singer and piano player passed away from natural causes, reported CNN.
Antoine Domino Jr. was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was one of nine siblings. He quit school at the age of 14 and started playing music in clubs and bars. He met producer/arranger Dave Bartholomew while still a teenager, and they teamed up on 1949 single “The Fat Man,” which sold over 1 million copies by 1953 and helped launch the era of rock ‘n’ roll. Domino had 23 gold singles and more than 30 top 40 hit songs during his career.
Domino was taught how to play the piano by his brother-in-law, jazz guitarist Harrison Verritt. Bandleader Bill Diamond gave Domino his nickname because the young man’s piano playing reminded him of two other exceptional players: Fats Waller and Fats Pichon, according to BBC.
During a 1973 interview with BBC, Domino noted:
“I was 17 when I made my first record in 1949. I never thought about being professional. I used to work in a lumberyard and that’s where I first heard a number on a jukebox and I liked it. It was a piano number. It was called ‘Swanee River Boogie’ by Albert Ammonds.”
Domino became a hit sensation in 1955 with the release of “Ain’t That A Shame,” and his highest-charting record was “Blueberry Hill.” He was one of the first R&B artists to appeal to a white audience. The only person who sold more records than Domino during the ‘50s was Elvis Presley.
Domino was known for his traditional rhythm and blues-inspired music that included a triplet-based piano style often accompanied with a saxophone solo and lead guitar. Paul McCartney wrote the Beatles song “Lady Madonna” in Domino’s style.
Harry Connick Jr., another New Orleans-based musician, tweeted: “RIP fats domino…you helped pave the way for New Orleans piano players…see you on top of that blueberry hill in the sky.”
Domino and his family survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but lost their estate, which included artifacts from Domino’s career, such as a National Medal of Arts award and gold records. These items were replaced, and his Steinway piano was repaired. Domino last performed publicly in 2007. He was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. The following year, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His wife of nearly 60 years, Rosemary, died in 2008. They had eight children together.