Tears fell like rain for music legend Fats Domino, the rock ’n’ roll pioneer behind iconic hits like “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” whose death was announced Wednesday.
He was 89.
Domino, who was born Antoine Domino Jr. in New Orleans, died Tuesday afternoon of natural causes, according to the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office.
His easygoing baritone, sung over the bouncy rhythm of his pounding piano, made Domino a fan favorite as early as 1949, when his first record, “The Fat Man” was released before going on to sell 1 million copies.
“They call me the Fat Man, because I weigh 200 pounds,” he sang. “All the girls, they love me, ’cause I know my way around.”
Music legend Fats Domino died on Oct. 25 at 89.
In all, Domino sold more than 110 million records on his way to becoming one of the first 10 people inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“We are all touched by the outpouring of love and tribute for our father,” Domino’s children said in a statement. “His music reached across all boundaries and carried him to all corners of the world.”
His songs landed him on the Billboard pop chart 63 times and the R&B chart 59 times throughout his years.
Domino first found himself sectioned to only the R&B charts until his 1952 song “Goin’ Home” made it to No. 30 on the main chart. The following year, his song “Goin’ to the River” landed at No. 24. In 1955, “Ain’t That a Shame” helped propel Domino’s sound across genres and landed at No. 10 on the pop charts.
Domino was featured in two films during his heyday, including “Shake, Rattle & Rock!” and “The Girl Can’t Help It,” both in 1956.
Domino found his way back into pop culture a generation later with the help of the TV show “Happy Days,” whose main character, Richie Cunningham, adopted “Blueberry Hill” as his signature song.
As word spread of Domino’s death, tributes poured in from across the musical spectrum — from artists including Kid Rock, LL Cool J and Harry Connick Jr.
“You helped pave the way for New Orleans piano players,” Connick tweeted. “See you on top of that Blueberry Hill in the sky.”
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Though he was known the world over, Domino stayed true and tethered to his New Orleans roots. He never regretted that decision, not even after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
His fate was unknown after the early hours of the storm, but it turned out that he and his family were rescued from his home in the Ninth Ward by a boat.
What could not be rescued were three pianos, dozens of gold and platinum records and a trove of other memorabilia.
Fans were worried that Domino would never return to the stage. In 2006, he was scheduled to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, but he simply tipped his hat to thousands of cheering fans.
Composer and pianist Fats Domino, seen here in 1956, was famous for his songs that include “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” and “Blue Monday.”
His friend Haydee Ellis said then that Domino was “OK, but he doesn’t feel up to performing.”
But in 2007, the Fat Man was back, playing “I’m Walkin’,” “Blueberry Hill” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” at Tipitina’s music club in New Orleans.
A year later, in April 2008, his wife of more than 50 years, Rosemary, died.
After his death, Domino’s family quoted a few lines of lyrics from his song, “Rising Sun”:
Then I rock myself to sleep / Prayin’ that I am here to keep /Then I ride the rising sun /Gee ain’t I being a lucky one.