NEW ORLEANS – Fats Domino broke into soft song as he stepped slowly through his gutted house in the city’s flood-ravaged Ninth Ward on Friday.
Sometimes the Hall of Fame piano man murmured a line of his familiar lyrics. At other moments, he just seemed to be thinking out loud, with a tune.
“Why such bad luck fall on me?” the 79-year-old sang, looking out a rear window into the neighborhood where he was born in 1928.
In between melodies, he said repeatedly that it’s time to come home.
Domino – whose real name is Antoine and who is known in New Orleans nearly as much for his reclusiveness as for hits such as “Blueberry Hill,” “Blue Monday” and “Ain’t That a Shame” – rode out Hurricane Katrina in the Ninth Ward, where the Aug. 29, 2005, storm did some of its worst damage. His family and agent had reported him missing and learned days later that he had survived when they saw a photo in the Times-Picayune that showed him stepping off a rescuer’s boat.
Domino, who had been back to see the Ninth Ward at least once before Friday, said he had no doubt he would eventually return for good. Workers are rebuilding his home.
For many in the heavily devastated neighborhood, which some have said shouldn’t be rebuilt, Domino’s return is a sign of hope.
“This is not about just getting one guy back in his house. It really is symbolic of this city coming back,” said Bill Taylor, director of the Tipitina’s Foundation, which is paying to repair the home Domino has lived in for decades.