Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fats Domino

Image result for hurricane katrina

Edward Hessler

When I hear a Fats Domino song, I almost always think of his gorgeous smile. It was everything most carpet smile are not, a real smile, one that said I love life, one that was giddy with life.

He could be called the inventor of rock and roll but if you won't give him that and I'm sure that others who know much more about music than I do would not agree. He surely was one of its founders and influencers.

During the large destructive hurricane, Katrina, that inundated New Orleans he remained in his home in the 9th Ward where he was ultimately rescued from the third floor. From there he was taken to the Superdome.  He lost almost everything including his grand piano, a white Steinway which is now restored but not playable. It is is now an installation in the Louisiana State Museum. He also lost a number of his gold records. Following he restored his home.

Here is one of many tributes to him by Gwen Thompkins and Anastasia Tsioulcas. I chose it because it has a link to his first hit, The Fat Man. Scroll down to find it.  The first version was recorded December 10, 1949.

Amanda Petrusich wrote this about the song in her New Yorker column for October 25.

Domino does something startling with Hall’s melody. Now that rock and roll has become such a familiar and comfortable idiom in America, it’s hard to quantify “The Fat Man” ’s singularity, or its wildness—to truly lock eyes with its newness would require unhearing all the various ways in which Domino’s work has since been synthesized and perverted and mimicked and reborn. (Such is the plight of the true innovator.) But I’d still challenge anyone to make it through the bit after the second verse—in which Domino begins to scat in falsetto, approximating the wah-wah-wah sound of a muted Dixieland trumpet—and not be left at least slightly agog. It’s a nonverbal, nonsensical chorus that’s not exactly a chorus, yet is somehow a flawless chorus—effervescent, unexpected, profuse.

All of us, well many of us, some of us know Blueberry Hill Mr. Domino sang this song on the Ed Sullivan show, likely a reach back in time for some of us (not me).

Petrusich says that she has watched the clip from that program many times. She puts into words what I suspect many of us have thought but were not able to find words for, "I still can't figure out the way his hands move so freely and so gently over the keys, as if he's not even pressing down," closing with this lovely line, "As if he merely charms the song into being."

He charmed all the songs he wrote and played and us.

Here is the link to Ms. Petrusich column.

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