Louis Armstrong Biography
Born on 4th August 1901, Louis Armstrong managed to influence many musicians through his amazing vocals and exceptional style in trumpeting. The New Orleans-born singer had an overwhelming stage presence which fascinated popular music scenes making him entertaining even after his death which occurred on July 6th, 1971. Born to William Armstrong and Mary Ann Armstrong, Louis Daniel Armstrong had a very challenging childhood after his father, a factory worker deserted his family soon after Louis’ birth. Most of the time after childhood, Louis stayed with his grandmother.
This was until he left school in fifth grade and started working for a family where he did coal delivery and junk collection. He was arrested in 1912 immediately after firing a gun in the air and sent to Colored Waif’s Home for Boys where he learned his music career, and continue to develop in his love for music. After leaving the home in 1914, Joe Oliver, one of the greatest cornet players recognized Armstrong’s potential and began to mentor him into music (Raum, 2007).
After Armstrong’s marriage to Daisy Parker in 1918 and subsequent adoption of a boy, the legend continued to rise in musical prowess, first taking over the Kid Ory band from King Oliver before working with Fate Marable and then moving on to work with Jazz legend King Oliver in Chicago after invitation. His first recording was done in 1923. He dated Lillian Hardin, a pianist in Oliver’s band who claimed that Armstrong was being limited by Oliver and who eventually pushed for their separation, which led Armstrong to join Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra in New York where his presence was felt heavily due to the changes he realized for the band. He finally flew back to Chicago to work with his wife after being stopped from singing by Henderson due to his rough vocals (Gioia, 2011).
In Chicago, Armstrong worked between 1925 and 1928, continuously impacting the music scene immensely, and producing the best Jazz record ever in 1928 in collaboration with his pianist, Earl Hines. After going back to New York in 1928, Armstrong featured in Connies Hot Chocolate and Ain’t Misbehaving (Gioia, 2011). Despite being criticized during his early career, Armstrong did not lose hope and continued to work due to his love for music. Furthermore, he experienced a setback due to quarrels with his manager, Johnny Collins who strained his relationship with the American masses. This led to his departure to Europe in 1934 from where he moved back to Chicago without a band in 1935. He was the first African-American Jazz musician to write an autobiography and continued to feature in films.
In the 1950s, due to the high reputation he had gained, the American government entrusted Armstrong with promotion of the American message to the masses, an activity he carried out with his entourage. In his later years, Armstrong continued with his music performances, film recordings and promotion tours through the world, despite a heart attack in 1959 from which he recovered. He was ranked the top in music charts in the year 1964. The activity that was Armstrong’s life somewhat ended in 1969 when he developed kidney and heart problems which prevented him from performing.
However, he continued to practice the trumpet on a daily basis and even going on tours. He eventually succumbed to death on the 6th of July 1971 after promising to play again in public. Even in death, the legacy left behind by Louis Armstrong continues to grow, further enhanced by the creation of the Louis Armstrong House museum in Ney York which attracts thousands of visitors each year (Mobile Reference, 2007).
Gioia, T. (2011). The History of Jazz. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
MobileReference (2007). 100 Most Influential People of all Times. Boston: MobileReference.
Raum, E. (2007). Louis Armstrong: Jazz Legend. Mankato, Minn: Capstone Press.
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