Inspirational Singers: Louis Armstrong
To end the week strong, today’s inspirational singer is none other than Louis Armstrong. I’m sure some of you might be unfamiliar with him. But I do know that you’ve heard a few of his iconic songs repeatedly without you knowing it’s him. A few of those songs are What A Wonderful World and When The Saints Go Marching In.
That song is so iconic that many television commercials, documentaries, and films use it. His voice is attention-grabbing. It’s often low pitch, but vibrant. It has a smooth vibrato mixed in with a pleasant grit. You can even say that he sounds like the cookie monster sometimes.
If you ever saw him singing, his facial expression will catch your eyes. He’s always smiling when he sings. His pearly white teeth were often in full display whatever the lyrics were or pitch he was reaching. The only time you won’t see his choppers was when he’s using his trumpet or cornet.
The Battlefield Coal Seller
He’s born in New Orleans. He was raised by his grandparents first. Then he was returned back to his mother when he was five. He lived in an area nicknamed The Battlefield, where most families were poor.
When he was six, he entered a segregated school. To get by every day, Louis performed odd jobs for a Jewish family. Mostly, he was selling coal. When Louis was out and about doing work, he heard a spasm band. That’s the time when he got interested in music. By the way, spasm bands are a group of musicians using household items instead of actual instruments.
However, he dropped out of school when he reached 11 years of age. His family moved out, and together with other kids in the neighborhood, they formed a quartet to earn a few pennies on the street.
By the time he was 16, his father had left the family. Thankfully, the Jewish family treated him as a member of the household, and this took a lot of burdens. However, this only worsens the discriminating attitude of white folks toward him. After all, Jews were also a subject of racial attacks at that time.
The Riverboat Cornetist
Most of his teen life, he played in brass bands, which were stationed in riverboats, as a cornetist. During this time, he encountered multiple local celebrities—Fate Marable being the most notable of them all. Louis caught the attention of Marable, and the latter decided to teach the young boy.
The lessons he got from Marable bore fruit quickly. At 20, he had a better grasp of the technicalities of reading music and arrangement. At this point, he’s already taking gigs that made him do a lot of extended trumpet solos. He’s often remarked as one of the best players during his era, who had the pleasure to watch him play.
A few years later, he moved to Chicago to further improve his career and to answer the invitation of King Oliver, a famous trumpeter and Louis’ future mentor. This cycle repeated multiple times in Louis’ life. He separated from his current mentor just to be called by another artist and invited to be played and taught.
As he continued to play in different cities in the United States and in various bands, Louis’ playing and singing style evolved and evolved in each performance he had.
The Great Depression
Louis’ career was doing great. He’s not only recognized as a trumpeter but a vocalist as well. And he’s not just a popular vocalist, he became an admired scat singer in the jazz scene. However, his successes were put into a sudden stop because of the great depression. The number of people hanging out dwindled, and this simply led to less attendance in his shows.
This forced Louis to move again from state to state. But it didn’t work out as well as he thought of. Not to mention that mobs were shadowing him. Because of that, he decided to take his act to Europe. Once the Great Depression was over, he came back.
Louis Armstrong And All That Jazz
His tours to find profitable places to perform produced wonders. When he settled in Queens, New York, he realized that he became an international celebrity. Also, he’s been considered as the champion of the jazz community.
At his career’s last stride, he launched his most famous record, Hello Dolly. The song was from Jerry Herman, and it was first sung by Carol Channing. The arrangement of this song was the culmination of all the things he learned.
He proceeded to tour around the world—not just in major countries, by the way. He set foot in Asia, Africa, and some communist countries aside from the usual countries in North America and Europe.
Unfortunately, he was a few years away from 70 when his body started to degrade. He then retired from touring and focused on accepting recording requests.
What Did We Learn?
Louis Armstrong is proof that doing your best to become the best at what you do can bear fruit in the long run. Louis receives his training from the best. Not because of his skills and money. It’s just because he’s a very charismatic guy who’s willing to listen and learn.
And even if he attained success and got rich, his excellent attitude never changed. In an interview, he said that making money never excited him. And many people who knew him personally attested that he was a wonderful guy to be with.
This was what Duke Ellington had to say: “He was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone along the way.”
The man’s smile was always sincere in his concerts. He enjoyed what he did for a living, not because of the money but for the experience. He always wanted to learn more and get better at what he does. The success and money were just by-products of his passion.
In a nutshell, you don’t need to have money to be successful in singing or become better at it. You only need to be passionate as a musician and maintain the right attitude. In short, just love singing, and you’ll definitely become better at it.
As a singer, you should follow his example. You must be willing to learn and stick to what you currently have. If there’s an opportunity to sing or perform, jump to it. You’ll never know who’s watching. One of those people you’ll encounter might become your mentor, a music producer, a band-mate, or a talent scout. Don’t just be on it for the money.
Just like with Tupac Shakur, you should never disregard education. It’s a key element for improvement whether you like it or not. Lastly, you should never forget the people who helped you along the way. There’ll be tons of them I’m sure. They could be family members or friends. Or fans or admirers who believe and support you.