Remembering the One and Only Satchmo

IT’S the birthday of that pioneering jazz musician Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo or Pops. The man who Bing Crosby called “the beginning and the end of music in America.”

It is sometimes claimed that Satchmo, the grandson of former slaves, invented scat singing. As the story goes, he dropped his lyric sheet while recording the hit song “Heebie Jeebies.” Without dropping a beat, he just kept going with what must have seemed as random gibberish. This introduced his musical “language” to millions, inspiring future scatters like Ella Fitzgerald and Bobby McFerrin

Armstrong’s biggest hit What A Wonderful World, was released in 1967, when America’s southern states were fighting desegregation, as the Vietnam War was raging and the Cold War was well underway in Eastern Europe.

And of course the Israelis were at war with their Arab neighbours. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. would both be assassinated the following year.

Hardly a wonderful world! Yet Armstrong explained how he could sing this song – “It seems to me it ain’t the world that’s so bad, but what we’re doing to it. All I’m saying is: See what a wonderful world it would be, if only we’d give it a chance.”

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