Filmgoers can gorge themselves on pop music history when “Fats Domino & The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll” screens Saturday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts in the Miller Beach section of Gary.
Sponsored by the Miller Beach Arts & Creative District, the 2016 documentary will be introduced by Larry Lapidus, an MBACD Board member and member of the Board of Directors for the Near North Chapter of Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he procures speakers and singers for fundraising events, as well as being a volunteer lecturer for community outreach.
Born in New Orleans, LA in 1928, Domino, a pianist/singer/songwriter, was one of the most popular rockers of the 1950s and ‘60s. With his boogie-woogie piano playing rooted in blues, rhythm and jazz, he became one of the inventors of rock ‘n’ roll.
“Fats Domino was considered the godfather (of rock) from the very beginning,” Lapidus said. “He was a brilliant piano player, but his singing of Top 10 songs from that period was historic. February is Black History Month, so I felt it was the appropriate time to honor his legendary talents.”
Given his signature nickname by bandleader Billy Diamond, who said Domino reminded him of pianists Fats Waller and Fats Pichon, the musician was responsible for such iconic hits as “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walkin’,” and “Whole Lotta Loving.”
“His music blended soul, R&B, pop, and, most important, the blues,” Lapidus explained. “This combination of styles represented the definition of rock ‘n’ roll. Fats’ large stage persona, dancehall piano playing, and homespun qualities had only one rival: Elvis Presley.”
Lapidus said he agreed with the theory that Domino’s popularity, records, and concert tours helped bring black and white youths together in shared appreciation, thus helping chip away at racial segregation in the U.S.
“Young white kids alongside blacks joined together in loving Fats’ songs and performances,” he said. “This might have been an early sign of integration, especially for the ‘50s. The white folks loved his work and did not hesitate to join in the appreciation of his music. Together, they made a considerable fan base.”
Even though artists from The Beatles to Willie Nelson, Norah Jones to Neil Young have cited Domino’s lasting influence, his notorious shyness and humility have kept his many accomplishments from getting the attention they deserve.
“Fats’ shyness certainly didn’t help his career,” Lapidus said. “In fact he did everything possible to avoid interviews. We all know that being shy or skeptical of the press is never an ingredient for success. This was quite an ordeal for his handlers. But in performance he did better, he knew he had to just show up, walk on stage and play the piano and sing. He trusted his talent in this respect.”
Audiences can place their trust in having a rollicking good time viewing this profile of a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer. “Fats Domino, whether people know this or not will always be a historic element in the conception of rock n’ roll,” Lapidus said. “So many artists were inspired by his music. The Beatles have mentioned this fact many times over. One must not forget that outside of Elvis Presley, Fats had the best-selling track record. His songs sold more than 65 million copies.”
“Fats Domino & The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll” will screen Saturday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts, 540 S. Lake St., Gary, IN. A $10 donation includes admission to the screening, soft drinks, popcorn, and the introduction by Larry Lapidus. There will be a cash bar.
For more information, visit millerbeacharts.org. or Miller Beach Arts & Creative District on Facebook