An Autobiography On Louis Armstrong Essay Research

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An Autobiography On Louis Armstrong Essay, Research Paper Birth-August 4, 1901, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, Death-July 6, 1971, New York City, New York, USA. It is impossible to overstate Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong’s importance in jazz. He was one of the most influential artists in the music’s history. He was also more than just a jazz musician, he was an enormously popular entertainer and although other black jazz men and women would eventually be welcomed in the upper echelons of white society, Armstrong was one of the first. He certainly found his way into millions of hearts otherwise closed to his kind. Had Armstrong been born white and privileged, his achievement would have been extraordinary; that he was born black and in desperately deprived circumstances makes

his success almost miraculous. Armstrong achieved this astonishing breakthrough largely by the sheer force of his personality. Louis Armstrong was born and raised in and around the notorious Storyville district of New Orleans. His exact date of birth only became known in the 90s, although for many years he claimed it to be 4 July 1900, a date which was both patriotic and easy to remember and, as some chroniclers have suggested, might have exempted him from army service. Run-down apartment buildings, many of them converted to occasional use as brothels, honkytonks, dance halls and even churches, were his surroundings as he grew up with his mother and younger sister. His childhood combined being free to run the streets with obligations towards his family, who needed him to earn

money. His formal education was severely restricted but he was a bright child and swiftly accumulated the kind of wisdom needed for survival; long before the term existed, Louis Armstrong was ’streetwise’. From the first he learned how to hustle for money and it was a lesson he never forgot. Even late in life, when he was rich and famous, he would still regard his career as a ‘hustle’. As a child, apart from regular work, among the means he had of earning money was singing at street corners in a semi-formal group. Armstrong’s life underwent a dramatic change when, still in his early teens, he was sent to the Colored Waifs Home. The popularly supposed reason for this incarceration, encouraged by Armstrong’s assisted autobiography, was that, in a fit of youthful

exuberance he had celebrated New Year’s Eve (either 1912 or 1913) by firing off a borrowed pistol in the street. Whatever the reason, the period he spent in the home changed his life. Given the opportunity to play in the home’s band, first as a singer, then as a percussionist, then a bugler and finally as a cornetist, Armstrong found his m tier. From the first, he displayed a remarkable affinity for music, and quickly achieved an enviable level of competence not only at playing the cornet but also in understanding harmony. Released from the home after a couple of years, it was some time before Armstrong could afford to buy an instrument of his own, but he continued to advance his playing ability, borrowing a cornet whenever he could and playing with any band that would hire

him. He was, of course, some years away from earning his living through music but took playing jobs in order to supplement earnings from manual work, mainly delivering coal with a horse and cart. Through his late teens, Armstrong played in many of the countless bands that made their home in New Orleans, gradually working his way upwards until he was in demand for engagements with some of the city’s best bands. The fact that Armstrong’s introduction to music came through the home’s band is significant in that he was inducted into a musical tradition different from that which was currently developing into the newly emergent style known as jazz. The Waif’s Home band played formal brass band music that placed certain demands upon musicians, not least of which were precision