Monday, December 20, 2010

Louis's Philosophy

“That’s my story, folks. I guess I’m stuck with it. I usually say nice things also about human beings, if they deserve it. I never want to be anymore than I am and what I don’t have I don’t need it anyhoo. I’ve always loved and always lived a normal life, which I appreciate very much and I’ve always loved everybody, still do.”  
—Louis Armstrong, Home Recorded Tapes, Disc 2 from Fleischmann’s Yeast Show, available from LAHM
I mentioned Louis’s Home Recorded Tapes in my December 17th post. So check it out, as this is dandy gathering of Louis talking directly to the recorder as well as conversations recorded with Lucille and friends. Today, maybe because it’s the season or, more likely, because Louis is so easily loved, I enter the last song, so to speak, titled “Philosophy of Life.” He recorded this rather late in his life, but he expressed this many times throughout his life in his writings and in interviews. It’s just good to hear him say it, softly, slowly, in that remarkable voice.
In much the same sentiment Gary Giddins in Satchmo (First Da Capo Press text edition, January 2001) quotes Duke Ellington in one of three epigraphs: “I loved and respected Louis Armstrong. He was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone on the way.” This is who he was and the more you read and listen the more you know this. He makes the space around him gentler, better and pulls everyone into his circle in his embrace. What a wonderful force to begin with, to collaborate and work out of.
BTW, if you’re looking to read about Louis Armstrong, Giddins’s book is an excellent first or even solo choice. He records LA’s life in a lively way. Even better, he talks about the music analyzing what Louis did. I reread it when I’m listening to Louis and learn something each time. Originally published 1988, Giddins helped reestablish the preeminence of both the man and his music. Watching Ken Burns’ Jazz, I was particularly taken by his soft delivery and keen observations of Armstrong. There was a time, especially among African-Americans when Louis was not highly regarded, discounted as an Uncle Tom. Gerald Early talks about this in Jazz. Several people mention that Giddins helped them rethink their views.

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