Fats Waller Day
May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943
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Pianist, composer, singer, and comic entertainer Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was born on May 21, 1904, in New York City.
He was the prized pupil of stride pianist James P. Johnson, later becoming his friend and colleague. Waller’s influence on the development of jazz as both an art form and a popular genre of music is immeasurable.
From the early 1920s until his death in 1943, Waller authored over four hundred songs, many of which remain uncredited to him.
As a master of stride piano, Thomas “Fats” Waller was a prolific composer, responsible for numerous popular hits that have since become standards.
Born to a reverend in Harlem, he began playing the piano at a young age and later transitioned to the church organ. By the age of fourteen, he was performing at the Lincoln Theater.
In 1919, Waller defied his father’s wishes and turned professional, embarking on a highly successful career as a songwriter and entertainer.
One of his greatest contributions to Harlem stride was a series of solo recordings in 1929, featuring compositions like “Smashing Thirds,” “Numb Fumblin’,” and “Handful of Keys.”
During the 1930s, Waller achieved great acclaim with his European tours and made appearances in several short films, including the full-length feature “Stormy Weather,” shortly before his death from pneumonia in 1943.
In the 1942 Soundie “Honeysuckle Rose,” Fats Waller performs one of his most famous compositions, accompanied by “His Rhythm.”