I love the music of Louis Armstrong. Always have, starting in elementary school when the music teacher would have us watch “Hello Dolly” every year. She would spread it out over a week (because music class was about 20-30 minutes long) and I always looked forward to the scene with Louis Armstrong and Barbra Streisand singing “Hello Dolly”. I loved the scat singing, even though I didn’t know it was called that then! This work is great because it shows the influence of African Americans in music. Even though Hello Dolly was made in 1969, the period in the movie was turn-of-the-century New York, right when jazz was rising. This piece also earned Louis the #1 spot on the pop charts at the age of 63, the oldest person to ever do that! The song was created my Louis in 1964 but the movie didn’t come out until 1969 in which Louis has a part singing the song.
Louis was born in New Orleans but migrated north as there were jobs in the industrialized cities such as Chicago, where he lived for two years. He then went to New York and was part of the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first musicians to record scat singing and he was also a great trumpet player. His music has been in hundreds of movies and even as I was watching some YouTube videos of his music, my son would chime in. I was listening to La Vie en Rose and my son said that he heard that song on Wall-E. I played What a Wonderful World and he said, Madagascar. Bare Necessities is on Jungle Book and Talk to the Animals is on Dr. Doolittle. So even without knowing it, my son has been influenced by jazz music.
Louis also supported the civil rights movement, although sometimes it was in a quiet, financial way. When he did speak up, it was to protest President Eisenhower’s inaction in the case of desegregation in a Little Rock Arkansas school. He canceled a state-sponsored Soviet Union tour in order to make a statement against the administration and said the president “had no guts”.
Some of his accomplishments include being the first African American to host a nationally sponsored broadcast, being one of the first jazzmen to be featured in an extended trumpet solo, and being the first jazz musician to appear on the cover of Time magazine. His influence is great, not only in the music scene, but in the civil rights movement, and on the history of African Americans.
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