Louis Armstrong: An American Genius

Louis Armstrong: An American Genius

Louis Armstrong: An American Genius

Louis Armstrong: An American Genius

Synopsis

Louis Armstrong was more than a great entertainer--he was one of the most important musicians of our times, not only a key figure in the history of jazz but also a formative influence on all of twentieth-century popular music. James Lincoln Collier, author of The Making of Jazz chronicles the saga of Armstrong's rise as a musician, providing a unique, insightful portrait of the man and his times.

Excerpt

When it was first suggested to me that I undertake a biography of Louis Armstrong, I was startled: surely the great jazz musician had been amply written about. But when I reflected, I realized that it was not so. Much of what had been published about Armstrong was simply a rehash of the old myths—the July 4th birth date, the Waifs’ Home, the burgeoning of jazz in the Storyville brothels. Some of it, in fact, was sheer fiction. The body of reliable writing about Armstrong was surprisingly small, and that had, in the main, been dated by the appearance, especially in the last decade, of a large amount of new information on jazz—oral histories, biographies, musicological studies. The need for a new book about this seminal performer was acute.

As I got into the research, I began to realize something else: jazz history had been misinterpreted in significant ways. In simple terms, early jazz was seen by the writers of the 1930s and forties as a folic music played mainly by blacks for their own people. A careful reading of periodicals of the 1920s, coupled with interviews with musicians of the day, and available oral histories, make it abundantly clear that jazz was, from the outset, no folk music, but a facet of a highly commercial entertainment industry. In order to understand Armstrong’s role in it a new interpretation was in order.

It is obvious that a book such as this could not have been written without the help of a great many people. It is not posible to enumerate all the dozens of assiduous students of jazz who have made the bricks from which any study of jazz is built: I have tried as much as possible to give credit where it is due in the text. However, I would like to thank in particular . . .

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