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Louis Armstrong

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 4 months ago

Louis Armstrong




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          It must have been fate for this particular man to have been born in the birthplace of Jazz music, New Orleans. His birth came right in the middle of the formation of Jazz music which would subsequently take off when he emerged as America’s musician. Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901 and died on July 6, 1971. Although it was not known until the mid 1980’s, Louis always told people he was born on July 4, 1900. Maybe he truly thought that is when he was born or maybe he was so enthralled at the idea of being a center piece in the American cultural identity that there would be no better day than America’s Independence Day to claim as ‘his’ birthday too. We cannot know why the dates were wrong because he passed on before it was found out but what we can rely on are the records showing his true date of birth. Louis Armstrong was born out of wedlock as a very poor black child being raised in uptown New Orleans in a rough neighborhood. For a brief period Armstrong was raised by his grandmother but would return home to his mother a short while later. Armstrong, being part of a poor family, was required at an early age to get a job and bring home money. Armstrong would make decent money being a paper boy as well as a coal deliverer to a local red light district but even with the money he would bring home his mother would still prostitute herself out for money to help the family survive. It must have been an extremely difficult time to grow up in for him but in looking at his music and how he plays you can feel the extreme emotion oozing out. Through his paper route and his delivery route of coal, Armstrong would be in places to allow him the opportunity to hear all forms of music not to mention the fact that New Orleans was a hotbed for innovative music.


          Armstrong would begin singing on street corners to earn extra money for the family thus beginning his career as a performer. His career would truly begin after he was sent to a boy’s home for firing his stepfather’s pistol into the air on New Year’s Eve in celebration. Upon entering the Colored Waifs home Armstrong would extend his coronet playing abilities beyond what he had previously taught himself. “As the young Armstrong began to perform with pick-up bands in small clubs and play funerals and parades around town, he captured the attention and respect of some of the older established musicians of New Orleans” (Burns). One such musician that would have a major and lasting impact on Armstrong was Joe “King” Oliver (he was also Armstrong’s mentor) the leader of Kid Ory’s band. Just before 1920, Armstrong was given the chance of a lifetime. Oliver would leave New Orleans and Kid Ory’s band to start his own thing in Chicago leaving a spot open for lead in Ory’s band. Armstrong, now a talented musician, was given second position but shortly after accepting the position he was moved up to leader. Armstrong was now being heard by a large part of New Orleans and his name began to be known. As a musician (and most musicians out there can understand) there was a need to supplement your income with multiple jobs, especially to support a family which Armstrong now has. It would not take long however for Armstrong’s former mentor to invite Armstrong to join him and his Creole band in Chicago. This would be a huge move because Armstrong would no longer have to support himself through extra jobs. This one job would provide a large enough income to support him and his family. At this point Armstrong divorces his first wife, who shortly after passes away, and is left taking care of his adopted son who had mental disabilities. At this point in the 1920’s Armstrong was living “like a king” enjoying the privacy of his own apartment. The band he played with in Chicago was the most influential of the 1920’s. During this time in his life he would marry his second wife who would convince Armstrong to seek out more for himself. “Armstrong began his lifetime of touring and recording. In 1924, he moved on to New York City to play with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra at the Roseland Ballroom. Armstrong continued his touring and recording activities with Henderson's group and also made recordings with Sidney Bechet, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith. In 1925, Armstrong returned to Chicago and made his first recordings as a band leader with his ‘Hot Five’ (and later his ‘Hot Seven’)” (Burns).


Later in the same decade would be the beginnings of his world-wide fame. Armstrong would begin to travel the world and perform many touring schedules in Europe. Armstrong’s dominance would lend itself to his determination to grow. His story reminds me of the story of “Ragged Dick” by Horratio Alger, Jr. Dick grew up as a boot black living on the streets in New York and would fall into the right set of circumstances that would extend him invaluable support to better himself. Through this support and his desire to learn on his own he would eventually move in to his own apartment and feel as though he were living as a king too. This story is a kind of rags to riches example that the United States is known for. Louis Armstrong is a prime example of this American Dream story of poor and unknown to rich and known. Armstrong’s music can be heard and appreciated all over the United States now as well as Europe. Armstrong was a performer! He would perform for people even up to his death. The same year Armstrong would pass away he was still rehearsing (at the age of 70) to be able to perform for his audience. Armstrong’s life force was his love for music, his family, and his country. Armstrong lived as the American Dream believes and would work hard his entire life to prove his worth.


 Let's take a look at one of Louis Armstrong's songs to try and gain a better grasp as to why he would have been such an influence on the entire population during the 20th and 21st century. In looking at his song "All of Me", which was performed in front of a group of Military personnel overseas, you can see how influential the lyrical context would be (not to mention how smooth his instrumentation is), especially for the men in the military thousands of mile away from home. This song would have brought back memories of America and their loved ones back home for the men that would surpass the mindset of being away from home. The way Louis Armstrong is able to convey an image in lyrics and provide emotion through those lyrics is amazing.




All of Me
Artist(Band):Louis Armstrong




All of me...why not take all of me
Can't you see...I'm no good without you
Take my lips.....I want to lose them
Take my arms....I'll never use them

Your goodbye...left me with eyes that cry
How can I....go on dear without you
You took the part....that once was my heart
So why not take all of me

(instrumental break)

All of me...now please take all of me
Can't you see...I'm no good without you
Take my lips.....I'd rather lose them
Take these arms....I'll never, never, never, ever use them

Your goodbye...left me with eyes that cry
How can I....go on dear without you
You took that part....what once was my heart
So why not take all of me

Baby please take all of me


[Lyrics provided through -http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/All-of-Me-lyrics-Louis-Armstrong/119F7E6EAF478D774825697000167E91]





History of Jazz





Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns. 04 November 2008. 04 November 2008. <http://www.pbs.org/jazz/biography/artist_id_armstrong_louis.htm>




Originally Created By: Jarret A. Rosser

December 8, 2008


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