What Louis Armstrong was to jazz, Fats Domino was to all of New Orleans music. He leaves an everlasting mark. Mr. Domino deserves more than just the obligatory second line in his memory. Our airport and a city park are named for Louis Armstrong. Shouldn’t Fats be honored in a similar way? Wasn’t he beloved by everyone in this city? And by people all over the world?
I truly can’t see any reason why our musical culture—known and loved worldwide (probably not as fervently in the city that produced it)—shouldn’t be put in the forefront of monuments and street renamings. How hard would that be?
I received a letter from one of OffBeat’s writers who summed up his feelings, and while I won’t identify him (as per his wishes) I’m going to excerpt parts of that email, which exactly delineates my sentiments:
Since Fats’ passing, the silence has been absolutely deafening from the cultural institutions of our city. My question has been why we haven’t recognized this titan of New Orleans music in a very big, very public, institutionally supported outpouring of grief, love and joy.
While Louis Armstrong left the city, Fats was our local ambassador to the whole world. His voice, his piano styling, his modesty, his incredible big band but perhaps most of all, his smile touched people everywhere. Fats is—in a direct way—the reason I moved to New Orleans. There would be no swamp-pop without the Fat Man. If Allen Toussaint were alive, he would be shouting the importance of Fats Domino.
Finally, I want to express my great fear. I wonder if I need to mourn a loss even greater than Fats Domino. New Orleans has a history of recognizing and celebrating the lives of its musical icons… especially in their moment of passing. This is key to the music of this city. It is key to a much bigger cultural fabric of this city, how we treat death. I am mourning the very real possibility that we have not only lost Fats, but our soul. I was stunned the day after Fats’ death when WWOZ continued its fund drive with chatter about the traffic after Katrina and how good the sandwiches were that someone donated.
Please let me know that you will do whatever you can to try and bring folks together and create an appropriate public celebration of the great, great Antoine “Fats” Domino Jr. Tricentennial Circle? I don’t think so. That would be such a travesty, and such a wasted opportunity. Where’s the petition? I’ll sign it.