Louis Armstrong: Jazz Musician
Louis Daniel Armstrong was one of the most influential American figures in jazz music. He was a trumpeter, singer, and occasionally, an actor. Armstrong was blessed with a sturdy and attractive voice which saw him regarded as one of the most talented singers of his time. Louis’s innovative trumpeting and ways of playing the cornet made him famous. He had gained skills such as twisting melodies and lyrics of diverse songs and incorporating dramatic effects which were useful as they attracted many people to jazz music. Despite America being racially segregated, Armstrong came into prominence in the mid-20th Century. Armstrong’s fans nicknamed him Pops since they considered him as the founding father of jazz music, a unique art form.
Focusing on his childhood and early life, Armstrong was born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901. His parents were William Armstrong and Mary Albert. Armstrong cwas raised by his grandmother until he was five years since his mother had resorted to prostitution to provide for the family after his father had abandoned the family immediately after Armstrong was born.At the age of six, Armstrong got a chance to school at Fisk school for the boys despite the racism system that New Orleans had on the Black children. Later, Armstrong had to drop out of school to do odd jobs for one of the Lithuanian Jewish family, known as the Karnsoffskys, to supplement his mother’s little income. While performing his duties such as selling coal, he heard the early sounds of jazz music played in the dancehalls.Thus, he developed an interest in jazz and joined a group of boys on the street who sang jazz music for money. The Karnsoffskys took Louis Armstrong as part of the family and encouraged his musical talent. In 1912, December 31st, Armstrong was arrested during the celebration of New Year’s Eve since he had fired his step-father’s gun into the air and taken to the colored Waif’s Home. Armstrong was introduced to a band while at the colored Waif’s home and to music. From there, he enhanced his cornet skills. After being released on 14 June 1914, Armstrong realized that he was talented in music and that it was a calling.
Armstrong entirely concentrated on jazz music after his release. He began attending and playing with multiple bands such as the Brass band parades and the Riverboats. While in riverboats, New Orleans, Armstrong learned sight reading hence gained multiple skills such as music knowledge. As such, he comprehended more about music from the older musicians such as Buddy Petit and King Oliver. Armstrong became one of the key trumpeters of the Tuxedo Brass Band after joining the Kid Ory’s band in 1919. Essentially, he became popular in New Orleans for how his unique way of playing jazz music. With his music knowledge, Armstrong’s music skills expanded and matured as depicted in the style and personality which he portrayed in the trumpet solos in which he featured. He then moved to Chicago in 1922to join Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Chicago proved to be a thriving city for Armstrong as he became successful and got a huge fan following. In 1924, Armstrong switched to work with Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. Soon, Armstrong’s emotional styles of performance such as singing and telling tales of New Orleans were adapted by other band members.As such, he transformed Henderson’s band into the first jazz big band.
In the early 1930s, the Great Depression experienced within the United States significantly affected jazz music players. Armstrong suffered a setback during this period. Moreover, many of the jazz musicians shifted focus to other professions to earn a living as the Depression caused the closure of several prominent clubs. Armstrong had to seek new opportunities, and therefore, he moved to Los Angles where he performed at Cotton Club. In late 1931, he returned to Chicago. Armstrong’s popularity was at the peak in the late 1930s after he had visited some countries such as Denmark and Holland. In his career, Armstrong also ventured in films featuring as a bandleader in a major Hollywood movie. Armstrong performed between the 1940s and the 1950s and released super hits which included ‘Blueberry Hill’ and ‘La Vie En Rose.’In 1954, Armstrong released essential jazz music known as ‘Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy.’ In this masterpiece, he featured timeless hits such as ‘Loveless Love’ and ‘St. Louis Blues’. In 1967, his single ‘What a Wonderful World’ was released and it proved to be iconic globally.
Louis Armstrong significantly transformed and inspired the American jazz music. He also made significant contributions on American race relations. As such, many Black jazz musicians accrued the benefits and gained respect for being recognized as jazz music inventors. Whites gained the highest achievements in Jazz music making it an essential commodity. Several Black jazz musicians benefitted from upward social mobility. Black musicians were equally considered in various opportunities across the radio and recording industries. Moreover, popular Black bands were also promoted since the White Americans had developed an interest and demand for the jazz music. Also, jazz music created a sense of integration between the Blacks and the Whites within the industry. In the music industry, musicians were considered equal, and white Americans would be hired to perform in multiple bands. Primarily, jazz musicians incorporated global ideas into their music. Duke Ellington, for instance, created the album ‘Far East Suite.’ It has promoted international integration among people residing in the U.S. Jazz has survived the economic decline that has resulted from the emergence of pop and rock over the years. It should be noted that jazz music has penetrated into the music programs in high schools and universities across the world.
Louis Armstrong significantly influenced the political climate in the U.S. Being a public image, he maintained a productive relationship with the public and the government. During his career, he did not exemplify vigorous activism against the government in his pursuit of justice and freedom. Armstrong wore a face mask to maintain peace and preserve race relations. He kept a productive relationship with the public by appealing to the dominant White perceptions. However, his opinions about race relations were hidden in his gestures throughout his performance. At the end of his career, he directly showed his anger and made statements against the racial segregation experienced in the U.S.
Throughout the history of jazz music, Louis Armstrong is recognized as the greatest inspiration due to his profound impacts on the jazz music society. His commitment to innovating new forms of jazz music has not only been a symbol for the musical life but it has also formed part of the cultural life in the U.S. For instance, traditionalists were against the breakdown of morality and jazz music helped in the realization of this objective. The influence of jazz music has seen youths rebel against acts such as women smoking cigarettes.
Anderson, Gene H. “Louis Armstrong.” The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2013)., https://scholarship.richmond.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1012&context=music-faculty-publications
Reiff, Melanie. “Unexpected Activism: A Study of Louis Armstrong and Charles Mingus as Activists Using James Scott’s Theory of Public Versus Hidden Transcripts.” (2010)., https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1054&context=summer_research
Anderson, Gene H. “Louis Armstrong.” The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2013).
Anderson, Gene H., 3.
Anderson, Gene H., 4.
Anderson, Gene H., 5.
Reiff, Melanie. “Unexpected Activism: A Study of Louis Armstrong and Charles Mingus as Activists Using James Scott’s Theory of Public Versus Hidden Transcripts.” (2010).