New York Times Published:
For his entire adult life, away from the spotlight, Armstrong amassed a huge trove of personal writings, recordings and artifacts.
But until this month, you would have had to travel far into central Queens to find them. Now anyone can access them. Smith, the wealthiest African-American — the Louis Armstrong House Museum has digitized the entire collection he left behind and made it available to the public at collections.
Armstrong wrote hundreds of pages of memoir, commentary and jokes throughout his life and sent thousands of letters.
He made collages and scrapbooks by the score. Over the final two decades of his life, he recorded himself on reel-to-reel tapes constantly, capturing everything from casual conversations to the modern music he was listening to. The same things that drove him as a performer — faith in unfettered communication, an irreverent approach to the strictures of language, the desire to wrap all of American culture in his embrace — course through his writings, collages and home recordings.
Armstrong had been largely responsible for shaping jazz into the worldly, youth-driven music it became in the s. He emerged as a symbol of racial pride, crossing Tin Pan Alley gentility with street patois, and sometimes singing directly about black frustrations.
But these archives contain the tools for a better understanding of Armstrong: In part, we see a man attuned to race and politics, who took his role seriously as a global ambassador for American culture and kept a close eye on the achievements of fellow African-Americans.
When he spoke out against school segregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, inhe surprised the nation. Some activists said it was too little, too late.
The archive, however, shows that he considered it both a proud moment in his career and wholly of a piece with his life up to that point.
He kept a close eye on reviews, but he wrote acerbically about music critics and sometimes taped his interviews with them — perhaps for evidence, in case they misreported something.
On one tape, fromhe barks at a journalist after being asked about changes afoot in jazz. Starting in his 20s, Armstrong frequently clipped newspaper articles about himself and bundled them into scrapbooks. The books began as a tool to convince club owners of his legitimacy, but they turned into a historical record.
The dozens of scrapbook binders contained in the archive are a window into his self-image as a celebrity: Armstrong looking at us looking at him. Armstrong began his career as an idol to many African-Americans. But as time wore on, many younger people, particularly musicians of the bebop generation, expressed misgivings about his genuflecting stage persona.
When he traveled to Baltimore in the winter ofhe donated bags of coal to residents of a needy black neighborhood and privately saved the news clipping from the Baltimore Afro-American.
When his band was arrested in Arkansas simply for traveling in the same bus as its white manager, he saved the article reporting it. Manuscripts Armstrong wrote constantly — mostly letters and short stories about his life but also in the form of limericks and pages-long jokes.
He wrote in a galloping, oddly punctuated style, treating literature almost as an outsider art. Commas turned into apostrophes; jive talk collided with standard English; words were underlined all over.
His musical originality is matched on the page. Bywhen he was in his mids, he had already published an autobiography. Over the course of his career he wrote more than 10, letters to fans, hundreds of pages of personal memoirs and enough lengthy jokesto fill a book. When he was 7 he worked as a servant in their house, and they recognized his musical talent early, advancing him a small amount of money to buy his first cornet.
In this essay, which stretches on for 77 pages, Armstrong enshrines a number of other elements of his personal mythology.
He reports his birthday as July 4,an apocryphal but symbolic date he was fond of using.Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong [Terry Teachout] on iridis-photo-restoration.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.
Louis Armstrong is widely known as the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century. He was a phenomenally gifted and imaginative artist/5(82). Jun 03, · Commentary and archival information about Louis Armstrong from The New York Times.
John Douglas Thompson vividly resurrects Louis Armstrong as he reminisces about a life that spanned a vast. Credit Credit Charles Graham, via Louis Armstrong Archive; Nathan Bajar for The New York Times. Louis Armstrong’s Life in Letters, Music and Art. Step inside the mind of one of America’s great virtuosos, thanks to a vast archive of his personal writings, home recordings and artistic collages.
Louis Armstrong is widely known as the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century. He was a phenomenally gifted and imaginative artist, and an entertainer so irresistibly magnetic that he knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts four decades after he cut his first iridis-photo-restoration.coms: Nov 17, · New York Times: Louis Armstrong’s Life in Letters, Music and Art..
“For his entire adult life, away from the spotlight, Armstrong amassed a huge trove of . Louis Armstrong’s Life in Letters, Music and Art The New York Times Step inside the mind of one of America’s great virtuosos, thanks to a vast archive of his personal writings, home recordings and .