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Fats Domino Songs: Listen to 12 Essential Tracks


Fats Domino sang songs about heartbreak and betrayal with such sly humor, they sounded like a good time.

Clive Limpkin/Daily Express, via Hulton Archive, via Getty Images

It was boogie-woogie. It was R&B. Then it was rock ’n’ roll. Then it was pop. And it was all Fats Domino, the New Orleans musician whose easygoing image cheerfully concealed the boldness and subtlety of his music. Domino, who died in Louisiana at 89, both embodied and extended the New Orleans piano heritage of styles that are at once unswervingly propulsive and floridly improvisational; he also gave early rock ’n’ roll an infusion of New Orleans syncopations. His songs, most of them written with his longtime producer and bandleader Dave Bartholomew, were often concise sketches of romantic strife involving heartbreak, betrayal, loneliness and spite. But he sang them with such sly good humor in his voice and his timing that they sounded like a good time. Here are 12 songs from Domino’s prime years, just a small taste of his hundreds of tracks.

‘The Fat Man’ (1949)

Fats Domino announced himself to the world with this single: a two-fisted boogie-woogie piano intro with tremolo flourishes, verses that establish his 200-pound physique and his New Orleans locale, a falsetto vocal like a trumpet solo and more splashy piano. Mr. Bartholomew thought at first that the piano was recorded too loud.

‘Blueberry Hill’ (1956)

Now indelibly associated with Domino, “Blueberry Hill” had been around since 1940, recorded by Gene Autry, Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong, among others. But it took Domino’s utterly satiated vocal, atop a New Orleans backbeat and his trademark piano triplets, to make the “thrill” so thoroughly lusty.

‘I’m Walkin’’ (1957)

Handclaps and a breezy, bluesy guitar riff conceal yet another tale of romantic woe coupled with resentment. Sure, he wants her back, but once he has her, he might just “say bye-bye” himself.

‘Ain’t It a Shame’ (1955)

Heartbreak has rarely sounded as survivable as it does on “Ain’t It a Shame,” from the terse stop-time beginnings of its verses — “You made/Me cry/When you said/Goodbye” — to its joshing saxophone solo. Domino sings about tears, but he’s vehement when he insists, “You’re the one to blame.” Pat Boone’s opportunistic cover version remains a disgrace.

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