This documentary just aired on my local PBS station and as Fats himself said “They did a good job.” The documentary opens up showing the flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans when Katrina hit. The documentary, narrated by John Goodman, talks about how tied to New Orleans Fats Domino is, and has always been. It also explores the idea that the city is, in turn, tied to Fats. He is termed as a “beacon of hope” for the idea of rebuilding the city and getting life there back to normal.
Antoine “Fats” Domino grew up in New Orleans and in the 1940s worked as a ice delivery man. He made sure that his route included plenty of bars and clubs with pianos so that he could play while he was “working”. It was during this time that Domino developed his “imperfect” but distinct style.
Domino has been an influence on many musicians over the years, and had record sales second only to Elvis Presley. One of the people largely influenced by Domino is Alan Toussaint, who wrote “Fortune Teller” which appeared on “Raising Sand”. Toussaint, Dr. John, and writer Keith Spera make up the bulk of the interview segments during this documentary.
Robert’s segments are about halfway into the program. He says of Domino, “his voice was charming and endearing.” He went on to say that “his reading of the songs was very appealing.” There’s a little segment where Robert and Fats are chatting and Robert is expressing his amazement that he was sitting having a beer with a singer he’d been influenced by.
Also in the documentary is a look at Robert recording “Valley of Tears” with the Sowetto Gospel Choir. You see him working out the styling with the Choir as well as rehearsing some of the lyrics.
The highlight and focal point of the documentary is Fats Domino’s appearance at Tipitinas for what many feel was his last concert. According to the documentary, Domino has always been a reluctant “star”, and the ordeal of Katrina took something out of him. Domino looked a bit frail and uncertain arriving at the club, but when he sat down at the piano it was, as one person put it, as if time had no meaning. A smile wreathed his face and he began to play, delighting the crowd. These live performances were interspersed with clips from Domino’s early career.
This documentary is an interesting look into the music of Fats Domino and how it, and he, is related and tied to New Orleans. Check your local PBS listings and make sure to catch this program if it airs in your market.
The benefit CD, Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino referenced in this documentary contains two songs recorded by Robert.