Louis Armstrong

Trumpeter, Singer and Jazz Musician


Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans on August 4th 1901. His childhood was a very tough one to get through. He lived in the part of town so poor, it was nicknamed "The Battlefield". After his father left his family when Louis was very young, his mother had to leave him with his grandmother most of the time to make money. Sadly, she turned to prostitution to provide for her family. In the fifth grade, Louis left school so that he could work. Luckily for Louis, a Jewish family gave him a job delivering coal and collecting junk. They often invited him to their meals and during these times they encouraged him to sing. During a New Years Eve party in 1912, Louis was arrested for firing a gun into the air. He was sent to the Colored Waif's Home for Boys. There he was given lessons on the cornet and discovered his love for music. He was then released from the home in 1914 and gave himself a reputation in New Orleans as a good blues musician. Though he was still working hard jobs, he became mentored by Joe "King" Oliver (one of the cities finest cornet players) who gave him tips and even used him as a sub for his own concerts!

In 1918, Louis got married to Daisy Parker and adopted a mentally disabled child whose mother (Louis's cousin) had died at child birth. During this time, Louis's reputation was still getting bigger. He replaced Joe Oliver in the most popular band in New Orleans and eventually quit labor jobs and started playing at parties, dances, funeral marches, etc.

In 1968 Louis had heart and kidney problems. He didn't get out of the house too much but still practiced the trumpet daily. During the Summer of 1970 he began taking engagements all around the world, however a heart attack after one gig made him stop for about two months. Even though he made a promise to play in public once more, Louis Armstrong died in his sleep on July 6, 1971 in his home in Queens, New York.


Louis Armstrong's career was full of ups and downs, many bands and a lot of hits. In the Summer of 1922 Louis joined "King" Oliver's band in Chicago. He married the pianist Lillian Hardin and they decided to move to New York City together so that he could join Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra. However he soon left THAT band also when his southern style of singing and playing were prohibited so that the much more formal audience wouldn't be upset. But while in New York cut dozens of records and backed numerous blues singers including Bessie Smith. Back in Chicago "Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five" made 60 records. The are thought of today as some of the most influential recordings in jazz history. He used risky rhythms on these, high notes and popularized "scat" singing where an onomatopoeia was used to the beat such as "badooda beep bop". He often played for silent movies with Erskine Tate's orchestra. In 1932 Armstrong did a tour of Europe where he received the meanest and most racist reviews of his career due to his wildness. Throughout the 30's, 40's and 50's Armstrong sang may more recordings and hits and appeared in a few movies. But sadly he was slowly becoming outdated compared to the younger new jazz artists. Armstrong made headlines of newspapers when he spoke out about civil rights 1957. In 1964, Louis recorded hid first song in two years, "Hello, Dolly". This song became very popular and knocked The Beatles out of the #1 spot for the most popular song! This gave him the younger audience he needed and he continued making even more successful records and stage performances. In 1967, Louis Armstrong recorded his most well known song, "What a wonderful World", it was not popular in the US but it was number 1 hit around the world.
Here are a few examples of Louis's most well-known work! these are significant pieces because they demonstrate Louis's smooth, upbeat jazz music. Listen to the background music, but also listen to how rough and rocky Louis's voice is. Most of his stage performances he kept a cloth with him to wipe off his extreme amount of sweat. Would you go see this man live today?
Louis Armstrong - Hello Dolly
Louis Armstrong sings "Mack the Knife"

Why Was Louis Armstrong Significant to American Culture?

Louis Armstrong change music completely! Louis used many different styles in his music including "scat" singing and very "different" rhythms than anyone had seen before. He also made many famous recordings still remembered today including "What a Wonderful World" and Elvis Presley even did a take on "Blueberry Hill".

What Artist Today Has Similar Work To Louis Armstrong?

I think that Sam Smith's work can be similar to Louis Armstrong's. Even though not all of Louis's songs are about love, the example below shows a slow song with background instruments about meeting his love on "Blueberry Hill". Today, most songs have something to do with love, whether its a breakup song or a song about getting over someone. Sam Smith's song below is a smooth, slow song about a breakup and you are able to hear the piano in the background. However, this is just one song comparison, an example of one of Louis's more upbeat song could be "Hello, Dolly" which some might be able to compare to a few of Taylor Swift's songs such as "22" and "Shake it Off".
Louis Armstrong - Blueberry Hill
I'm not the only one - Sam Smith - LYRICS HD