Monday, August 23, 2010

Music Monday--Satchmo

In the world of jazz, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong stands out as one of the giants. Even non jazz fans usually know his name, or at least recognize it when it's mentioned. Armstrong is certainly a musical legend. But it all could've been different, had Satchmo's childhood been more idyllic.

It was New Year's Eve, 1912, and of course, New Year's is a time for parties. Louis was at a celebration, but for some reason he decided to end it by firing his uncle's pistol into the air. Why did he do it? Not sure. Maybe he didn't like the music they were playing. Of course, the neighborhood he grew up in was nicknamed "the Battlefield", so maybe he thought it was a theme party.

Either way, young Armstrong was carted off to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs. He'd been there before, but never for a long stay. This time it was a long stay. It was while in the home that he took up the cornet (a trumpet-like instrument), and after his release he continued playing. The rest's history.

It just seems funny to me that so much rested on that one pistol-shot. Sure, maybe he would have done something else that would have sent him to the reform home. Then again, maybe not. Would he have ever had the chance (or inclination) to take up the cornet otherwise? He probably would have been busy with school or odd jobs or play. Who knows?

Satchmo, as he later became called, was so influential in the jazz world and beyond. His gravelly smoker voice is definitely distinct in the music world. He also wrote some killer songs. Can you imagine a world with no "What A Wonderful World"? That would mean there would be no Israel Kamakawiwo's "What A Wonderful World/Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Just the other day I saw a ventriloquist on TV who had his puppet turtle imitate Kermit the Frog while he imitated Armstrong. They sang a "What A Wonderful World" duet. So touching.

Well, he does meet the musician/artist requirement of having a troubled past, although not much of that leaked into his later career (good for him). At least he didn't cut off his ear or overdose or anything like that. Silly artists.

Anyway, for your listening pleasure, here are two Louis Armstrong clips. The first one, I'm sure you've heard but just in case here's "What A Wonderful World."

Here's another Satchmo classic, "Mack the Knife." I love the beginning announcer voice!

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