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American singer and pianist Fats Domino was a rhythm-and-blues star who became one of the first rock-and-roll stars and who helped define the New Orleans sound.
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The rhythm we play is from Dixieland — New Orleans."
After recording an impressive 37 different Top 40 hits for the label, Fats Domino left Imperial Records in 1963 — later claiming "I stuck with them until they sold out" — and joined ABC-Paramount Records, this time without his longtime sidekick Dave Bartholomew. Whether due to the change in sound or because of changing popular tastes,
Domino found his music less commercially popular than before. By the time American pop music was revolutionized by the 1964 British Invasion, Domino's reign at the top of the charts had reached its end. He left ABC-Paramount in 1965 and returned to New Orleans to collaborate once again with Dave Bartholomew. The pair recorded steadily until 1970, but only charted with one more single: "Lady Madonna," a cover of a Beatles song that, ironically, had been inspired by Domino's own musical style.
After 1970, Fats Domino rarely left New Orleans, living comfortably with his wife Rosemary and eight children off the royalties from his earlier recordings. He occasionally performed at local concerts, but generally shunned publicity of all kinds. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, but refused to attend the ceremony; likewise, he turned down an invitation to perform at the White House, though he accepted the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1998.
Despite being urged to leave New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina striking New Orleans in 2005, Domino preferred to stay home with his wife, who was in poor health at the time. When the hurricane hit, Domino's house was badly flooded and the legendary musician lost virtually all of his possessions. Many feared that he was dead, but the Coast Guard rescued Domino and his family on September 1, three days into the city's crisis. Domino quickly put the rumors of his demise to rest, releasing the album Alive and Kickin' in 2006. A portion of the recording's sales went to New Orleans' Tipitina's Foundation, which helps local musicians in need.
Katrina had also devastated Domino personally. To raise money for repairs to Domino's home, friends and rock stars alike recorded a charity tribute album, Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. The likes of Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and Elton John lent their support to the early rock pioneer.
After Katrina, Fats Domino made some public appearances around his home city of New Orleans. One of his concerts was recorded for a PBS documentary, Fats Domino: Walkin' Back to New Orleans, which aired in 2007. A greatest hits album was also released in 2007, allowing a whole new generation to fall for Fats Domino all over again.
In recent years, however, Domino has largely stayed out of the spotlight. He attended a 2009 benefit concert to watch such other musical legends as Little Richard and B.B. King perform, but he stayed off the stage. Now in his eighties, Domino will always be remembered as one of rock's early stars. He also helped break down color barriers, getting white stations to play his songs and playing to racially diverse audiences.
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