Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'n' Roll

by Rick Coleman

Published by Da Capo

400 pages, 2006



 

 

 

 

Emphatic Rhythm

Reviewed by Lincoln Cho

 

From the very beginning of Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'n' Roll, you know that this is not one of those hollow, pr-driven rock bios the book industry is so fond of churning out. Author Rick Coleman starts us out by setting the stage:

X-ray America and you'll find the major artery, the magnificent Mississippi River coursing down the continent to New Orleans. ... With a true melting pot of French, African, Native American, German, Spanish, and Caribbean inhabitants, New Orleans became the heart that pumped a very different cultural message upstream against the overwhelming White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant current in America.

Coleman covers the history of New Orleans as it relates to music lightly but thoroughly. In just a few pages, he creates the environment that would -- could? -- give birth to rock 'n' roll.

On a certain level, Blue Monday is as much a biography of New Orleans rock 'n' roll as it is of Antoine "Fats" Domino. But maybe that's the point? The two are so inextricably linked that, after the devastating hurricane of 2005, one of things that those who watched Hurricane Katrina on CNN remember was seeing 77-year-old Fats Domino rescued from his Lower Ninth Ward home. In the prologue to Blue Monday, Coleman comments on this, as well:

His story indicated another perceptual disconnect. Though he had rarely sought publicity, the Katrina story was the most national attention that Fats had received in years, shocking even old fans who didn't even know he was still alive. Though he had been the best-selling early rock 'n' roll star after Elvis Presley... Domino had been all but forgotten.

Fats Domino had never been forgotten by Coleman, who first met him "two decades before Katrina" at an outdoor concert on Lake Ponchartrain. The two had a nice connection and, two months later, Coleman got his first private audience when he interviewed Domino at the star's home where the "thick spicy aroma of Creole food was strong as I walked into his modest kitchen."

Unsurprisingly, that first interview laid the groundwork for Blue Monday, an intimate, affectionate yet completely honest portrait of this seminal talent. Coleman leads us through Domino's turbulent life: the "emphatic rhythm" he brought to pop; the racism that dodged especially the early part of his career; his battles with substances and the perils of being a star right through to the modern rock stars who have admired and even emulated the big man. Blue Monday is a fascinating tour of a fascinating life and -- stunningly -- the first biography of Fats Domino to see print.

Rock Coleman's byline has appeared in Billboard, Rolling Stone and Goldmine. His short biography of Little Richard won the 1990 NAIRD India award. | May 2006

 

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and contributing editor to Blue Coupe magazine.