Fats Domino was a New Orleans musical legend when he died last year, so it’s only fitting that he and his music receive a special send-off this year during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Organizers on Saturday marked the occasion with a jazz funeral as well as a special tribute performance in his honor.
Al “Lil Fats” Jackson played the classic Domino song Blueberry Hill as crowds gathered at the festival’s ancestor area to remember Domino.
The festival unveiled a painting of Domino sitting at his piano to join the other paintings of luminaries associated with the festival who have died.
One of Domino’s grandchildren, Angele Green, thanked the crowd for coming.
“In the words of my grandfather, let’s shake, rattle and roll,” she said.
Domino sold more than 110 million records, with hits including Blueberry Hill, Ain’t That a Shame and other standards of rock ‘n’ roll.
Domino helped change popular music with his steady, pounding piano and easy baritone. Despite his fame, he always stayed loyal to New Orleans. After 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as floodwaters swept the city, he and his family were rescued by boat from his home but he lost three pianos and dozens of gold and platinum records and other memorabilia.
“There are two New Orleans musicians … that changed the music of the whole world. That’s Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino,” festival producer Quint Davis said before the festival, adding that he’d had a “wonderful time” going back and listening to Domino’s music to prepare for the festival.
Carolyn Stark of Ann Arbor, Mich., was part of the crowd. She said she’d seen Domino perform only once but wanted to pay her respects.
“He was so happy when he was playing,” she said, adding that the image had stuck in her memory.
Eather Reynolds of New Orleans said she often drives by the house where Domino lived for a long time in the city’s Lower 9th Ward neighborhood. She grew up listening to his music, which she described as part gospel and part jazz.
“But you could feel it in your soul,” she said.
The tribute concert Saturday featured various members of Domino’s band who are still playing, as well as special musical guests like Bonnie Raitt and Jon Batiste.
The jazz funeral featured the Tornado Brass Band as well as three of the city’s social aid and pleasure clubs.
Domino is also featured on this year’s festival poster.
“He’s with us everywhere,” said Davis.