Trying To Get To You

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blue Monday

I just finished reading Rick Coleman’s wonderful bio about Fats Domino, “Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock N’ Roll.” It’s one of the best music books I’ve read in years. It is exhaustive in its scope about Domino and post WWII New Orleans R&B, but more than anything, it is a book that sets the record straight.

If Elvis’ legacy as has been called into question by a strain of "cultural critic" that (foolishly) calls what he did cultural appropriation (i.e., ripping off blacks), then Fats Domino contribution to rock and r&b has often been left out of the story. This borders on travesty, as Domino was making music that could easily be identified as rock n’ roll five plus years before Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis ever set foot in a recording studio. My guess is that it’s due to Domino’s non-threatening image; we like our rockers to be overtly rebellious and sexy. Perhaps it’s due to him being a piano based rocker in a genre where the guitar became the main instrument. But however it went down, Domino, despite being a key influence on Elvis, the Beatles, countless others, selling over 100 million records and being an artist who truly shook the walls of segregation (one of the most fascinating threads of the book) has never seemed to get the full extent of the recognition that he deserves.

If the information revolution that we’re experiencing today creates micro-niches of fans interested in one thing, then the revolution began by Fats Domino and his generation of r&b and rock n’ roll musicians did something completely different; it brought vast groups of people together for the first time, often times in direct violation of the law (segregation). It may seem like a small thing now, but when you read “Blue Monday,” you understand both the enormity of the accomplishment (and the price paid for it) and how it altered the history of America forever.

This is required reading.

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