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Music

How Fats Domino made Debbie Harry fall in love with music

@josephtaysom

Getting sucked into music is a moment that usually happens subconsciously, whether it’s through listening to the radio in car journey’s or being indoctrinated by your family’s record collection without realising it. For Blondie’s Debbie Harry, one song by Fats Domino would kickstart her love affair, and her life suddenly made sense.

Harry became the poster-girl of the new wave scene and thrust a punk attitude into the mainstream with a string of hits born from the counter-culture and made on the sticky floor of CBGBs. With that in mind, Harry being a lover of Fats Domino is unexpected, but she’s a woman of an eclectic taste, and it’s been that way ever since childhood.

She’s always been seeking out what’s fresh and keeping a firm ear fastened to the ground rather than religiously staying in one lane for eternity. It’s the same ethos that made her fall head over heels and initiated herself into the punk movement. It’s why she became captivated by the underground hip-hop scene that was thriving in New York, and it explains why Harry recruited Charli XCX and Blood Orange to help create Blondie’s 2017 album, Pollinator.

When she was 11, Fats Domino released his take on ‘Blueberry Hill’, which she cited to The Guardian in 2014 as the track which first made her fall in love with music.

Gene Autry first performed the number in 1940, and since then, a whole host of artists have attempted to make it their own. In truth, the only person that has managed to do that is Fats Domino, who released the definitive version in 1956.

“I’m so terrible on songs and dates, I warn you – you may as well be talking to me about fish oil,” she laughed. “But I do remember one of the first things that had an effect on me as a child: hearing Fats Domino do Blueberry Hill. It was music my parents weren’t into, so this was stuff just for me.

“I love it when musicians and their instruments sort of become an entity in themselves – you see it with Nina Simone and Ray Charles as well as Fats Domino. All their music is so emotional for me. If I’d grown up differently, maybe I’d have had the diligence to learn an instrument. Oh well – I don’t think I’m going to get there at this point!”

When you’ve got charisma by the bucket load as Harry does, then who needs to master an instrument? Especially if you’re fortuitous enough to meet individuals like Chris Stein to play with you and illuminate your vision. While there’s no inclination in Blondie’s sound about any kind of influence from Fats, ‘Blueberry Hill’ proved to be a pivotal fork in the road in her journey.

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