The “Satchmo” was born 121 years ago today
Looking back at the influential and iconic Louis Armstrong and five of his best songs
To talk about Pop Culture, Jazz and overall music in the 20th century and not mentioning Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, would be ignoring history. The iconic and talented artist was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 4, 1901. Armstrong crossed over race and classes in a highly segregated period of the United States due to his talent as a trumpeter, composer, vocalist, occasional actor and also his charisma. Louis Armstrong first came to prominence during the 1920’s, almost as a novelty act, with his “inventive” trumpet and cornet player, but quickly proved to be more than just a novelty act, and laid the foundations for the now essential part of Jazz music which is the collective improvisation to solo performance. As influential as his trumpet playing, is also Armstrong’s singing with his instantly recognizable rich and gravelly voice, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes, and aside of Jazz, he was also very skilled at scat singing.
Owner of an unique stage presence, Armstrong was one of the first African-American artists to break the boundaries of race in a time of segregation. His artistry, talent and personality allowed him access to the upper echelons of American society, then highly restricted for black men, however, he rarely publicly politicized his race, often to the dismay of fellow African Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation. For over five decades, Louis Armstrong did several world tours, playing sold out concert halls all over the world. At his time, he was a global music phenomenon and one of the first truly music superstars. By the end of his career in the 1960’s, Armstrong was widely regarded already as a living legend and a profound influence on popular music in general, breaking once again boundaries. When in 1967 he released “What A Wonderful World” he was far to guess that it would be forever considered his signature song, but more than than, also a global anthem for peace that still stands today as one of the most recognizable melodies in the planet. Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack in his sleep on July 6, 1971, a month before his 70th birthday. Among the peers and friends who attended his funeral were Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson and David Frost. Singer Peggy Lee sang The Lord’s Prayer at the services while Al Hibbler sang “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”. To celebrate the talent of Louis Armstrong on the 119th anniversary of his birth, here’s five essential songs of the “Satchmo”.
5 – ”When You’re Smiling”, 1929
4 – ”Jeepers Creepers”, 1939
3 – ”When the Saints go Marching In”, 1938
2 – ”Hello Dolly”, 1964
1 – ”What A Wonderful World”, 1967
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