Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

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9780151010899: Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong is widely known as the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century. He was a phenomenally gifted and imaginative artist, and an entertainer so irresistibly magnetic that he knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts four decades after he cut his first record. Offstage he was witty, introspective, and unexpectedly complex, a beloved colleague with an explosive temper whose larger-than-life personality was tougher and more sharp-edged than his worshiping fans ever knew.

Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout has drawn on a cache of important new sources unavailable to previous biographers, including hundreds of candid after-hours recordings made by Armstrong himself, to craft a sweeping new narrative biography. Certain to be the definitive word on Armstrong for our generation, Pops paints a gripping portrait of the man, his world, and his music that will stand alongside Gary Giddins’s Bing Crosby and Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis as a classic biography of a major American musician.

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Review:

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2009: Crafted with a musician's ear and an historian's eye, Pops is a vibrant biography of the iconic Louis Armstrong that resonates with the same warmth as ol' Satchmo’s distinctive voice. Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout draws from a wealth of previously unavailable material – including over 650 reels of Armstrong's own personal tape recordings – to create an engaging profile that slips behind the jazz legend's megawatt smile. Teachout reveals that the beaming visage of "Reverend Satchelmouth" was not a mark of racial subservience, but a clear symbol of Louis's refusal to let anything cloud the joy he derived from blowing his horn. "Faced with the terrible realities of the time and place into which he had been born," explains Teachout, "he didn't repine, but returned love for hatred and sought salvation in work." Armstrong was hardly impervious to the injustices of his era, but in his mind, nothing was more sacred than the music. --Dave Callanan

Product Description
Louis Armstrong was the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century and a giant of modern American culture. He knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts, wrote the finest of all jazz autobiographies--without a collaborator--and created collages that have been compared to the art of Romare Bearden. The ranks of his admirers included Johnny Cash, Jackson Pollock and Orson Welles. Offstage he was witty, introspective and unexpectedly complex, a beloved colleague with an explosive temper whose larger-than-life personality was tougher and more sharp-edged than his worshipping fans ever knew.

Wall Street Journal arts columnist Terry Teachout has drawn on a cache of important new sources unavailable to previous Armstrong biographers, including hundreds of private recordings of backstage and after-hours conversations that Armstrong made throughout the second half of his life, to craft a sweeping new narrative biography of this towering figure that shares full, accurate versions of such storied events as Armstrong's decision to break up his big band and his quarrel with President Eisenhower for the first time. Certain to be the definitive word on Armstrong for our generation, Pops paints a gripping portrait of the man, his world and his music that will stand alongside Gary Giddins' Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams and Peter Guralnick's Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley as a classic biography of a major American musician.


Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Terry Teachout, Author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

Dear Amazon Readers:

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, my new book, is the story of a great artist who was also a good man.

A genius who was born in the gutter--and became a celebrity known in every corner of the world.

A beloved entertainer who was more complex--and much tougher--than his fans ever imagined.

It's not the first Armstrong biography, but it's the first one to tell Satchmo's story accurately. I based it in part on hundreds of private, after-hours recordings made by Armstrong himself, candid tapes in which he tells the amazing tale of his ascent to stardom in blunt, plainspoken language. I'm the first biographer to have had access to those tapes.

Read Pops and you'll learn the facts about his 1930 marijuana arrest, his life-threatening run-in with the gangsters of Chicago, his triumphant Broadway and Hollywood debuts, his complicated love life, and much, much more.

You'll also come away understanding exactly what it was that made him the most influential jazz musician of the twentieth century, an entertainer so irresistibly magnetic that he knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts four decades after he cut his first record.

If you've ever thrilled to the sounds of "West End Blues," "Mack the Knife," "Hello, Dolly!" or "What a Wonderful World," this is the book for you and yours. Give Pops a read and find out all about the man from New Orleans who changed the face of American music.

Sincerely yours,

Terry Teachout

(Photo © Ken Howard)



Amazon Exclusive: Terry Teachout's Top 10 Louis Armstrong Recordings

In Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, I tell the story of a beloved giant of jazz whose greathearted, larger-than-life personality shone through every record he made. Here are ten of my special favorites:

1. "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" (1933). Of all Louis Armstrong's records, this is the one I love best. Listen to how he floats atop the beat in the last chorus--he sounds just like a tenor going for a high C.

2. "West End Blues" (1928). The most celebrated of all Armstrong recordings and the quintessence of swing."

3. "Hotter Than That" (1927). “I just played the way I sang," Pops said. His wordless vocal on this Hot Seven track proves it.

4. "Star Dust" (1931). Further proof: listen to how he rewrites the lyrics to this familiar Hoagy Carmichael ballad.

5. "Darling Nelly Gray" (1937). Satchmo transforms an old slave song, backed up by the suavely swinging Mills Brothers.

6. "Jeepers Creepers" (1939). A charming souvenir of Armstrong's film career--he introduced this Johnny Mercer song in "Going Places."

7. "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" (1938). A boiling-hot big-band remake of a classic 1927 Hot Five side in which the trumpeter improves on perfection.

8. "You Rascal, You" (1950). Louis meets Louis in this raucous romp through an Armstrong standard, accompanied to high-spirited effect by Louis Jordan's Tympany Five.

9. "New Orleans Function" (1950). An old-time New Orleans jazz funeral recreated by the All Stars, with Earl Hines on piano and Jack Teagarden on trombone.

10. "Sleepy Time Down South" (1941). Armstrong's theme song, an irreplaceable example of his rich and resplendent lyricism.




About the Author:

TERRY TEACHOUT is the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal and the chief culture critic of Commentary. He played jazz professionally before becoming a full-time writer. His books include All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine, The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken, and A Terry Teachout Reader. He blogs about the arts at www.terryteachout.com.

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