Second only to Elvis Presley in record sales in the 1950s, this humble, gentle, gracious and talented man with only a fourth grade education left a musical legacy to our generation and those that have or will come later, whose value is clearly immea-surable and that will never be forgotten. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in 1986.
According to Rolling Stone's comprehensive, online memorial tribute to Fats (which is among the best of the many you will find online and the source of much of the content of this one),
"Few artists embodied the innocent release and ecstasy of early rock 'n' roll like Fats Domino. He was the music's first piano wizard and a huge influence on generations of musicians."
The rolling motion of his body one observed whenever he performed, coupled with the distinctively rolling rhythms of his New Orleans style of music, truly put the "roll" in rock 'n' roll more than anyone else. Dion DiMucci (of Dion & the Belmonts) spoke of the "rolling sound of his fingers on the piano."
During his 1999 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction speech, Billy Joel said of Fats,
"Traditionally, when people think of rock 'n' roll, they think of the guitar. I want to thank the man who proved that the piano was a rock 'n' roll instrument."
And in the words of contemporary piano greats of Fats' time (and ours), Jerry Lee Lewis said,
"His vocals were phenomenal, and he was a great pianist — he had the best raw talent."
Little Richard said,
"I loved him. I loved his piano playing. I love his music, period. ... he could make a piano talk ... he influenced me as an entertainer, period."
In a 1956 television interview, Fats Domino was asked about the controversy that had developed around rock 'n' roll music. "As far as I know," he said, "the music makes people happy." It certainly did that for us. And over 60 years later, it still does — and always will as long as we live. So as Fats takes his last walk to join Chuck Berry, Elvis and the others waiting in rock 'n' roll heaven, we say to him, "You turn to the right; you find a little bright light."
May 9, 2020: Slightly more or less than three years after the passings of two other giants, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino (respectively, on March 18th and October 24th, 2017), Little Richard, the last of the three legendary founding fathers most responsible for transforming black R&B music into mainstream rock 'n' roll (our music) passed away from bone cancer at his home near Nashville, Tennessee, at age 87.
Just as the Everlys defined and represented the boundary of the soft, sweet romantic side of rock 'n' roll, Richard regularly raised the roof and reached the outer limits of the raw and raucous edge of the wide range of sounds and styles presented to us as kids during its explosive first five years or so.
There are many extensive online accounts of Richard's colorful life and his long, extraordinary career in the revolutionary musical genre he virtually defined. In the words of a NY Times reporter, "screaming as if for his very life, he created something new, thrilling and dangerous."
These online biographical accounts feature the grateful tributes of countless younger artists who followed him. Many of them were heavily influenced, indeed, by Richard for decades, but neither his sound nor his style of performing was ever quite duplicated. He was unique. And not many among our generation can easily forget the shocking feeling of raw and rhythmic, sensual exhilaration that came over us in 1955, when our radios first exploded with
"Wop Bop a Loo Bomp, a Lop Bop Bomp!!"
August 21, 2021: One of the last surviving rock 'n' roll pioneers and musical heroes of our generation is gone at age 84, 6⅟2 years after his younger brother, Phil in 2014. (See 2014 memorial tribute to Phil, above.) It all goes for both of them; they were a team, and as such, they were charter inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
The sweet sound of Everly Brothers harmonies will never be forgotten ─ and it will never be duplicated. They were indisputably among the finest and most memorable duos in rock 'n' roll.
May the brothers rest in peace together in
rock 'n' roll
heaven. So sad.
October 28, 2022: Once again, it saddens me greatly to report the passing today of my very favorite musical entertainer of all time, Jerry Lee Lewis, whom we lovingly called the "Killer." Two days after a premature and erroneous report of his death followed almost immediately by an unprecedented number of media corrections announcing that "the Killer is ALIVE!," he finally succumbed to his poor health today at his home near Memphis. His personal life and career were filled with controversy and scandal, irreverence and turmoil.
Known primarily for his incredible and unique, self-taught piano playing, his unbelievable energy, sensuality, showmanship and his enormous ego, the Killer, who never learned how to read music, nevertheless was one of the greatest musicians of our time. He was the very definition of everything that was rock 'n' roll our music. No adjectives such as outrageous, iconic or legendary were strong enough to adequately describe him. He even played the piano with his feet and with his ass.
Back in 1957, when I first heard "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," I thought no one would ever top that. But soon afterwards, along came "Great Balls of Fire," which totally blew me away! In my opinion, it remains to this day the greatest rock 'n' roll record ever made!
The last time I saw Jerry Lee perform in person, he was in his late 70s. He was wearing a back brace and could barely step up to the piano. But when his magical fingers hit the keyboard, they were 21 years old and electrifying! He definitely was one of a kind. There will never be another.
Equally talented and comfortable with all kinds of music other than rock 'n' roll, such as R&B, blues, gospel, pop and country, at long last, just before his death he was finally honored with his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Decades previously, in 1986, he was, of course, among the inaugural class of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, all of whose members are sadly now gone. As he often prophetically proclaimed himself in recent years, the Killer eventually was, in fact, "the last man standing"!
There are many extensive biographical obituaries and celebrity tributes to this remarkable entertainer online. One of the best appeared three days after his death and was written by Cameron B. Gunnoe in a rather obscure online music newsletter, CultureSonar. Among other things, it says:
"To undertake the delineation of Jerry Lee Lewis influence on popular music as it is known today would be akin to explaining the impact of the internal combustion engine as it pertains to large-scale commerce. There is simply so much to unpack that words cease to do justice to the notion."
There are also many hours of JLL's performances over the last 66 years online, for example, on YouTube, many of which are of the Killer's unique versions of other people's music of many types, including many songs you've never heard before, for example, this 1983 star-studded TV salute to the Killer hosted by the now late Dick Clark online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tOUwcowqjc. But they are all wonderful! Google them, and set aside some time to watch, listen and, of course, enjoy.
2014, 2017 and 2020-2022 by Howard B. Levy and 1960