Last week Mahlerman gave us some meaty musical Behemoths to munch on, so – having already covered the specky four-eyeses – I thought it might be apt to turn to those other playground unfortunates, the fatties.
Gobble-gut, garbage-guts, guzzle-guts or gully-guts – I leave it to Jonathon Green to list the many names we can call a glutton, but it seems that in the world of American jazz piano they insisted on Fats. I have two for you. First, here’s Thomas Wright ‘Fats’ Waller, a prodigiously gifted pianist from Harlem who copyrighted over 400 melodies – including the evergreen Ain’t Misbehavin’ – before his death in 1943. He was 39 years old and died from pneumonia on an eastbound cross country train in the vicinity of Kansas City.
Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr. was 15 years old when Waller died, but he’s still going strong in his eighties. Born and raised a native Creole speaker in New Orleans, he continues to put on and perform in post-Katrina benefit concerts. Here is an absolutely blissful Ain’t that a Shame. I defy you not to be cheered by it.
Mama Cass Elliot, contrary to popular belief, did not choke to death on a ham sandwich, but died from a heart attack in a London hotel room. Born Ellen Naomi Cohen she had a short, colourful life which included: a platonic marriage to a band mate, later annulled, in order to keep him out of the Vietnam draft; a non-platonic marriage to an heir to a Bavarian baronetcy, which ended in divorce after a few months; and an illegitimate daughter whose father she never publicly identified.
She’s best remembered now for the lovely Dream a Little Dream, but here’s an intriguing song called California Earthquake.
At the age of 17, Barry Eugene Carter – aka Barry White – was jailed for four months for stealing $30,000 worth of Cadillac tyres. While in prison he heard Elvis singing It’s Now or Never on the radio, and the subsequent Damascene conversion turned him away from LA gang life and onto music. So it goes. He had a prolific career as a producer and songwriter and, of course, as a solo recording artist. A proper heavyweight, White suffered from high blood pressure, kidney problems, a stroke and died in 2002 from “total renal failure”. His last words were: “Leave me alone, I’m fine”.