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The Legacy of Louis Armstrong Essay

Louis Armstrong was an American singer and jazz trumpeter who was nicknamed pops or Satchmo. Louis was born in New Orleans in 1901 and died in 1971. He is popularly known for the role he played in transforming the focus of music from collective and band performance to solos. His melodious voice matched well with his music career and would compose music that expressed great dexterity something that influenced his listeners. Though his focus was on jazz music, his influence in the 1960s moved beyond its confines and revolutionized what was by then came to be known as popular music.

Armstrong was a black child from a poor background in uptown New Orleans where he was brought up by his aunt after his parents separated. Though he is dead the legacy that he left still lives on. This research paper is going to conduct an intensive and extensive research on the life of Armstrong and particularly his life in music career. The paper will give a short historical background about his life. It will try to establish the role he played in the entertainment field and especially how he transformed and shaped American cultures.

Armstrong’s career could be said to have started a bit early although he was not consciously aware that that was what his career would be. It was shaped by music exposure he used to get when his aunt and himself went to the streets to sing so that they would get something to eat. At the age of seven, his real interest in music was noticed especially after he bought a real music horn. In this poor region where he lived music was the only entertainment people would get and thus it was highly.

The music that was popular and most listened to was known as ragtime but later with Armstrong’s influence it came to be known as Jazz music. In order to earn his living, Armstrong would go tout in the streets together with his friends to play music. ” He loved music from an early age. He sang in the streets in vocal groups for pennies as a youth and loved hearing the many brass bands that played in parades and social functions”. (Yanow xiii) While he was still young, he was engaged in various delinquent activities which led him to be put in New Orleans’s home where coloured waifs would be housed.

He was put there for the first time when he fired a bullet from a pistol in the new year’s eve. It is while he was in this home that he received his first formal music lessons. He left New Orleans’s home a changed man for he minimized his delinquent activities and started to concentrate more on music where he joined pick up bands and perform in social places such as pubs with the help of Joe (King) Olive who was his mentor. As he continued to specialise in music, he gained expertise and became one of the few famous musicians in New Orleans.

(Yanow, S. 2003, 23) It was in 1920s that Louis’ popularity reached its peak. He moved from New Orleans and proceeded to Chicago where he would play with Oliver Creole jazz band but after sometime he left Chicago for New York where he revolutionized the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra band with his new improvised and revitalised musical vocabularies. “He (Armstrong) played in an exciting and explosive style in the mid 1920s that greatly influenced jazz to evolve from an ensemble oriented music to one dominated by virtuosic soloists” (Yanow, xiii).

He made his music unique by arranging musical keys in such a way that they would create musical harmony. This was done by use of space and silence while singing. Louis made musical accomplishment in three areas first the improvisation of music something that proved to be ahead of other musicians of his time. This made him very unique and popular as far as jazz was concerned. Before Armstrong would venture in jazz music, it was played in a loosely structured arrangement when no single musician would take the stage for an extended time actually most of the times the performance was properly orchestrated.

It is only after he arrived in the field that solo performance was introduced something that attracted a lot of attention not only from the general public but from other artists in New York. (Jones, 12) As time progressed he thought it was better to collaborate with other bigger bands of the 1930s-40s but soon or later he realised that his ideas and expectations were not realised thus he started to associate himself with smaller groups. His influence in jazz performance cannot be measured.

He was widely known for his outstanding performances that he made which left many stunned. He was able to transform what could be termed as mere regional music to what later came to be known as popular music that captured people’s attention internationally. His fame made him to become a real celebrity or a public figure something that nearly obscured his real role as a jazz performer and musician. (Yanow, 1) During his concerts, Louis proved to the world that he had unmatched potential to revolutionize the music industry.

He did this by improvising melodies and integrating new vocabularies in his masterpiece some thing that made his work to be unique. He used trumpet to play music and due to his persistence in using it, it came to be the only tool that accompanied jazz music. He would mix various vocabularies in a melodious manner and bended lyrics skilfully making his jazz to be music with a difference. It is because of his fame and popularity that entertainment and media stations recognised him.

No other African American had ever been featured in radio and television programs in fact he was the first to be hosted in the 1930s. (Louis Armstrong) He also had a role to play in Hollywood movies where he would act as the band leader. His popularity was further boosted in 1950s and 1960s when television programs started to air programs that featured him for example “the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (Bogdanov 56) Some critics argue that Armstrong had a potential to become today’s biblical Moses (Nollen 110).

People say he was like a prophet though he never acted like one. His prophetic nature just flowed out naturally. In 1923 Armstrong made some recordings with Oliver King and Creole jazz bands, most of these recordings that he made are listened as jazz music documentary in New Orleans. Armstrong also had a philanthropic nature. He set up a non-profit making organisation where the disadvantaged children in society would be taught the art of music. He also turned his house into an archive of music books, music recordings, and other related materials.

(Nollen 98). This came to be referred to as Louis Armstrong’s archive and it provides researchers who want to get an in depth knowledge in music an opportunity to do so. (Anderson and Budds 112) During the Second World War period, Louis Armstrong played the role of an ambassador and would spread American patriotism world wide. It was at this time that he came to be referred to as ‘ambassador Satch’. He even travelled to Africa where he was well received especially in those nations that had already secured their independence.

One of the most celebrated events that he played his concert was Ghana’s 1956 independence celebrations that had attracted more than 100,000 fans of Louis music. He was able to successfully market himself worldwide because he was sponsored by the government and the media. (Yanow, S, 70) Though Louis Armstrong was a victim of racial prejudice for he was raised in a poor and segregated background, he would not publicly talk about racism but in 1957 he was forced to talk and condemn it when the whites perpetrated violence against blacks in little Rock.

This was after the federal government ruled that segregation in public schools should end. The whites refused to comply something that made the blacks to stand for their rights and chaos ensued. Armstrong was a man who would chose his words to use in public well something that made many people to listen to him and that was thereby ending up being influenced by his jazz music. Though he passed on, his memories are still fresh in people’s minds and they are kept green by constant playing of his music on the radios and televisions.

His music is also used in computer games and television commercials; no doubt his celebrity nature has somehow surpassed his career as a musician. He transformed the nature of jazz music from being highly orchestrated to what came to be known as solo performance. He also introduced trumpet as the only tool that accompanied jazz music. Works Cited: Collier, J. Lincoln. Louis Armstrong: An American Genius. Oxford University Press US, 1986.

The book provides a detailed account of Louis early life and his rise to music industry and to the eventual stardom. Bogdanov, V. , Woodstra, C. and Erlewine, S. T. All Music Guide: The Experts Guide To the Best Recordings. Backbeat Books, 2001. This book gives detailed information about the recordings that Louis made and how he transformed the perception of jazz to that of popular culture Yanow, S. Jazz on Record: The First Sixty Years. Backbeat Books, 2003. In this book Yanow digs dipper in the history of Jazz music and discusses about various styles that are used in jazz music. It also shows how Armstrong’s music impacted on the American culture. Anderson, G. H. and Budds, M. J. The Original Hot Five Recordings of Louis Armstrong.

Pendragon Press, 2007 Jones, M. and Chilton, J. Louis, the Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971: The Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971. Da Capo Press, 1988 This book talks about the life of Louis and gives the chronology of his life and his achievements. Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy. Available at http://www. npg. si. edu/exh/armstrong/index. htm Nollen, Scott Allen. Louis Armstrong: The Life, Music, and Screen Career. McFarland, 2004 It provides readers with extensive biographical information of Louis, his cultural achievements such as his recordings, performances and his artistic innovations.

It discusses about his role in Hollywood films. Yanow, S. Swing: The Best Musicians and Recordings. Backbeat Books, 2000. This book has a lot of information about the life of Louis and especially in his music career. Yanow, S. The Trumpet Kings: The Players who shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet. Backbeat Books, 2001. This book gives the details of Louis and the lives of other 479 jazz trumpeters. It provides all the biographical information of these musicians and the relationships they had with other contemporary musicians


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