Two New Orleans archetypes:

Louis Armstrong and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Here’s what they mean to me…

The day I was born (September 20, 1959), Louis Armstrong performed this song on the Ed Sullivan Show. Louis was the first celebrity I was aware of as a young child and the first musician. His version of “Hello Dolly” (1964) was the first song I remember learning to sing (and I sung it in his voice.)

OK, enough embarrassing personal revelations.

Some purists feel Louis “sold out” in his later years. All I can say is let’s see what these know-it-all critics are doing when they’re 64.

Louis brought jazz into the 20th century and then became a peerless ambassador for the music in his later years. No one paid more dues.

As for the charge of being a “sell out,” in 1957 Louis refused an invitation of participate in a State Department sponsored musical tour of Africa in protest of civil rights violations in the US. He was also a public critic of the war in Vietnam.

Thanks to the magic of television and video and YouTube, here’s the very performance from September 20, 1959.

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Check out Louis’ autobiography. It’s a great read and an excellent window into life in New Orleans at the early part of the 20th century.

There is a Louis Armstrong museum in Louis’ old house in Corona, Queens. His archive can be found at Queens College, Queens, New York, where – strangely enough – folks speak with a New Orleans accent (or is it that New Orleanians speak with a Brooklyn-Queens-Bronx accent?)

More more info about all things Satchmo, go to the official site.

It’s the levees, stupid
An unshakeable faith that things can get better…

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