Fats Domino, rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, dead at 89

Fats Domino, whose rollicking rhythm and blues piano helped give birth to rock ‘n’ roll, has died in his lifelong home of New Orleans, the coroner said Wednesday.


He was 89.

The famously reclusive musician, who had made few public appearances over the past decade, died Tuesday morning of natural causes, said Gerry Cvitanovich, Jefferson Parish Coroner.

“He was true to his New Orleans roots and he was a real legend,” he said.

Domino’s daughter earlier announced the death to a local television station, saying that the rock legend died peacefully around family.

Despite finding fame around the world, Domino never moved out of the working-class Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans where he built a house and would sometimes be spotted sleeping outside in a hammock.

In his heyday he was considered a rival to Elvis Presley as the king of rock ‘n’ roll. But with a natural shyness, the self-effacing Domino faded in prominence by the mid-1960s as a crop of swaggering rock stars came to dominate pop culture.

Born as Antoine Domino, he picked up his nickname early — which was cemented by the success of 1949’s “The Fat Man,” one of the first tracks in rock ‘n’ roll to find a mass audience in the burgeoning consumer culture.

With his rhythm-and-blues piano backed up by an energetic back-beat, Domino on “The Fat Man” offered self-deprecating humor — “They call me the fat man / ‘Cause I weigh 200 pounds” — and turned his voice into a trumpet-like instrument, singing, “Wah-wah-wah, wah-wah.”

He later recorded some of the greatest hits of the 1950s, which became omnipresent on the jukeboxes of America, such as “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walking” and “It’s You I Love.”

Domino is estimated to have sold 65 million records, a major feat for an artist of his era. He was part of the first group of musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 alongside Presley and Chuck Berry.

Innovative piano style 

Born to a French Creole family of limited means, Domino as a child would work hauling ice in the notoriously humid city in the age before air-conditioning. With most homes then keeping pianos, Domino would stop to play as he dropped off the often gigantic chunks of ice.

With a style rooted in boogie-woogie, Domino became an innovative piano player, most notably with his use of triplet notes which added to the vibrant rhythms. He honed his musical skills with his father, a fiddler, and a brother-in-law who played banjo.

Domino found a global audience after being sought out by Lew Chudd, a Canadian-born advertising salesman who had seen the potential of recorded music and earlier worked with the jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman.

Domino signed with Chudd to the new Imperial Records, where the pianist would co-write songs with longtime collaborator Dave Bartholomew.

“Ain’t That a Shame” marked a turning point for Domino and rock history. Working for the first time outside New Orleans, he recorded the song in Hollywood where Imperial Records seized on early studio effects to make the song more lively and less bluesy.

The 1955 song was the first by an African American artist to triumph on the US pop charts. He was soon performing on national television programs including “The Ed Sullivan Show” and touring the country.

But several of his shows in the segregated South were disrupted, with Domino — like Chuck Berry soon after him — offering the then unprecedented formula of music loved by both whites and blacks, played in venues with dancing and alcohol.

Rooted in New Orleans 

In a rare interview, Domino told the New Orleans music magazine Offbeat in 2004 that he was not shocked by the segregation as he had grown up around it.

“That’s the way it was when I started out,” he said. “I knew what they had going on so it was no use me trying to do anything about it. I just went along and did my thing.”

He said he never planned to leave New Orleans. Even when traveling, he was often spotted cooking up shrimp for gumbo and other quintessentially Louisiana dishes.

I found My Thrill on ” Blueberry Hill”! RIP Fats Domino

— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) October 25, 2017RIP fats domino… you helped pave the way for new orleans piano players… see you on top of that blueberry hill in the sky ❤️🙏🏼❤️

— Harry Connick Jr (@HarryConnickJR) October 25, 2017

“People would tell me — well, they wouldn’t tell me but other people would tell me, ‘They want to know why would you build an expensive house like that in that neighborhood.’ Well, to me it didn’t make no difference ’cause I like it and this is where I was born,” he said.

Domino was briefly unaccounted for when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2005. He was evacuated and a year later released a final album, “Alive and Kicking,” to benefit artists hit by the tragedy.

China’s new leadership: Ageing men seen as no threat to Xi

There is no obvious challenger to Xi in the group appointed Wednesday to the Politburo Standing Committee, which includes two known allies and an ideologist.


When the next party congress comes round in 2022, they will all be too old to serve the customary two five-year terms as party general secretary — given a retirement age informally set at 68.

Here are the seven men in the order they were presented to the public in the Great Hall of the People:

Xi Jinping

Xi, 64, tightened his already formidable grip on power at the congress, securing a second five-year term as general secretary after his name and political theory were enshrined in the party’s constitution — raising the prospect he could stay in power beyond 2022.

During the congress Xi announced that China had entered a “new era” that would transform it into a global superpower with a world-class military by mid-century.

In his first term he oversaw a sweeping crackdown on dissent, targeting activists and human rights lawyers.

Li Keqiang

Li, 62, runs day-to-day affairs as the premier. When Xi took office five years ago, Li was seen as the man in charge of shepherding the economy.

He promised “fair treatment” to foreign firms, a larger role for the market and structural reforms in favour of the private sector. 

But analysts say the premier has been sidelined as Xi has further centralised power around himself.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, one of the seven newly elected members of the Politburo Standing Committee (AAP)AAP

Li Zhanshu

Li, 67, is director of the party’s General Office and is seen as a close confidant and friend of Xi’s.

Perhaps more importantly to Xi, he has no strong ties to ex-presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. In Chinese politics, former presidents tend to wield considerable influence. 

Li previously served as party secretary of the southern province of Guizhou and as governor of Heilongjiang province.

Li Zhanshu, one of the seven newly elected members of the Politburo Standing Committee (AAP)AAP

Wang Yang

Wang, 62, serves as one of four vice premiers. 

He previously managed the affluent southern province of Guangdong as party boss from 2007-2012 as well as the mega-city of Chongqing from 2005-2007. 

He is considered one of the party’s most socially and economically liberal leaders, having advocated  the role of the free market and  political reform — something which may put him at odds with Xi.

File image of Wang Yang AAP

Wang Huning

Wang, 62, is a leading Communist Party theorist, credited with assisting Jiang with the “Three Represents” philosophy and former president Hu Jintao with his “Scientific Outlook on Development” theory.

Analysts say Wang’s promotion reflects Xi’s desire to make an impact with his own political philosophy, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, which entered the party constitution this week. 

Zhao Leji

In addition to joining the committee, Zhao, 60, was named the new head of the powerful anti-corruption agency, which has brought down 1.5 million corrupt officials since 2012 — including some seen as possible Xi rivals.

He is closely linked to Xi as part of the so-called Shaanxi clique of leaders from the northern province.

Zhao was party boss of Shaanxi from 2007-2012 and of the far-western province of Qinghai from 2003-2007.

Han Zheng

Han, 63, is the party secretary of Shanghai and has been linked to the so-called “Shanghai clique” influenced by Jiang.

Whoever leads the financial hub has traditionally always been a member of the Standing Committee, with the exception of former Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu, who was jailed in 2008 for bribery and abuse of power.

Kenya crisis deepens: election bid unheard

Kenya has plunged deeper into a political crisis as its Supreme Court says it cannot hear a case to delay a presidential election because it lacked the judges to make a quorum.


Only the Supreme Court has the authority to delay Thursday’s poll, preparations for which have been marred by administrative confusion and an undercurrent of violence.

Chief Justice David Maraga said one judge was unwell, another was abroad and unable to return in time, and another judge was unable to come to court after her bodyguard was shot and injured on Tuesday night.

That meant the court lacked a quorum to hear the petition to delay the vote.

A lawyer for the election board said the Supreme Court statement meant the elections, which opposition leader Raila Odinga is boycotting, would proceed.

“It means elections are on tomorrow. There is no order stopping the election,” lawyer Paul Muite told Kenyan television station Citizen TV.

The court shocked Kenya last month when it nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election in August, citing irregularities and illegalities and the electoral commission’s unwillingness to let court-appointed technicians scrutinise its servers.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga had challenged Kenyatta’s victory, claiming hackers had infiltrated the servers and manipulated the vote.

Odinga has said he will not participate in the new election because the electoral commission has not been reformed. Kenyatta has insisted the vote continue.

Hours before Wednesday’s hearing, the driver of the deputy chief justice was shot in what many saw as intimidation of the judiciary.

200 more share bikes to hit Sydney streets

Two hundred more dockless share bikes are hitting Sydney’s streets as local councils continue to examine how they can stop machines being abandoned in inappropriate locations.


The world’s largest dockless bike-sharing company, ofo, is rolling out its first wave of bikes in central Sydney on Thursday with further deployments to follow in the Waverley and Inner West council areas.

Spokesman Scott Walker says ofo is determined to be the first bike share platform to launch in Australia “the right way”.

“We want to ensure from day one all our bikes are maintained, re-distributed appropriately, have a helmet and are parked properly,” he said.

Inner West Council is pushing for metropolitan councils to develop a city-wide response to dockless bikes operated by oBike, Reddy Go and now ofo.

Mayor Darcy Byrne says a co-ordinated response “is increasingly urgent given the proliferation of share bike schemes on Sydney streets”.

“It is important that there be one simple set of rules across Sydney or we risk bike-sharing schemes – which can bring huge benefits – being strangled at birth,” he said in a statement.

“Given Transport Minister Andrew Constance has stated he is not willing to put Sydney-wide state government rules in place … the onus is on us to take the lead.”

A Transport for NSW spokesman said councils were responsible for footpaths and local roads – including cycling and bike parking infrastructure – under an arrangement with Roads and Maritime Services.

Randwick City Council has met with share-bike companies and is working on a memorandum of understanding while Waverley Council has threatened to impound bikes left discarded on streets.

India tells US it will keep NKorea embassy

India has told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson it plans to retain its North Korean embassy, so as to keep open channels of communication as Washington steps up global pressure to isolate Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile programs.


Tillerson held talks with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday as part of a new effort by the Trump administration to deepen economic and strategic ties, as a way to balance China’s growing clout across Asia.

Both sides pledged to strengthen anti-terrorism co-operation and Tillerson said Washington stood ready to provide India with advanced military technologies.

“The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region,” Tillerson told a joint news conference with Swaraj.

Swaraj said the issue of India’s diplomatic and economic relations with North Korea came up during the talks but she conveyed to the top US diplomat that some level of diplomatic presence was necessary.

“As far as the question of embassy goes, our embassy there is very small, but there is in fact an embassy,” she said.

“I told Secretary Tillerson that some of their friendly countries should maintain embassies there so that some channels of communication are kept open.”

India and North Korea maintain diplomatic offices in each other’s capitals, though New Delhi recently banned trade of most goods with the country, except food or medicine. Trade was minimal, Swaraj said.

Tillerson landed in New Delhi on Tuesday night after a day-trip to India’s arch rival, Pakistan, which he called an important US ally in the restive region that includes war-torn Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, he said Washington was concerned about the stability of the Pakistan government against militant groups and that it stood with India in the fight against terror.

“In the fight against terrorism the United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with India. Terrorists’ safe havens will not be tolerated.”