Jon Batiste, who is the band director for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” wrote one of the most powerful opinion editorial pieces for The New York Times on Fats Domino, rock & roll and race.
Here is a preview of the piece below :
My first exposure to rock ’n’ roll came from watching mostly white bands like Nirvana, Korn and Limp Bizkit perform angsty songs on MTV. I bought some of their albums, but the genre didn’t really resonate with me until I learned that black people could be rock ’n’ roll artists too. None had as great an influence on me as Fats Domino, one of the biggest stars of the early rock ’n’ roll era, who died on Tuesday in Harvey, La.
I was raised in a musical household in New Orleans. I played the drums and piano as a child, and my dad played bass. He and his bandmates encouraged me to study the history of rock ’n’ roll, not dismiss it. In one of my weekly runs to Blockbuster’s used CDs section, I found a Led Zeppelin CD, which eventually led me to Jimi Hendrix. He was the first black person I learned about who played rock ’n’ roll — a term I thought was fixed but whose meaning kept expanding.
Around then, I began to play gigs with bands that would occasionally cover Mr. Hendrix’s songs, and it was powerful to watch the audience react. I wanted to be able to tap into that kind of energy too, but also to balance it with something else I couldn’t quite identify yet.
Around 1998, when I was 12 years old, I sat in on one of my father’s gigs and first heard “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino. The song seemed deeply familiar; it was almost as if it was otherworldly, floating somewhere in the ether. I had never heard such a percussive piano section. Folks of various ages and races got up to dance and sing along in a joyous communal outburst.
In this yearslong study of rock ’n’ roll, I had finally arrived at the beginning: Fats Domino.
Click here to read the full piece on The New York Times website.