Thursday, August 4, 2011

What A Wonderful World! Happy Birthday, Louis Armstrong!

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
-Bob Thiele (as George Douglas) and George David Weiss

Happy August 4th!

Every year around this time, I get VERY nostalgic. This time of year is just as important to me as my birthday. Maybe more important, because it was 32 years ago tomorrow that I came to New York.
Tomorrow's blog will be all about that.
This was the day that Richard Skipper was really born.
I do know that 32 years ago today was a Saturday.
Read all about it tomorrow!

Something else happened on this date...American singer, bandleader, and trumpeter player Louis Armstrong was born on this day in 1901. Check out The Louis Armstrong House in Queens, NY.
Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an "inventive" cornet and trumpet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the music's focus from collective improvisation to solo performance.
With dazzling virtuosity on the trumpet and an innovative singing style, Satchmo was the fountainhead of a thoroughly original American sound

What a Wonderful World", one of my ALL time favorite songs, iwritten by Bob Thiele (as George Douglas) and George David Weiss. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released as a single in 1968. Thiele and Weiss were both prominent in the music world (Thiele as a producer and Weiss as a composer/performer). Armstrong's recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. The publishing for this song is controlled by Memory Lane Music Group, Carlin Music. Corp., and Bug Music, Inc..

Intended as an antidote for the increasingly racially and politically charged climate of everyday life in the United States, the song also has a hopeful, optimistic tone with regard to the future, with reference to babies being born into the world and having much to look forward to. The song was initially offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down.
Thereafter, it was offered to Louis Armstrong. The song was not initially a hit in the United States, where it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because the head of ABC Records did not like the song and so did not promote it, but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart. In the U.S. the song hit #116 on the Bubbling Under Charts. It was also the biggest-selling single of 1968 in the UK where it was among the last pop singles issued by HMV Records before becoming an exclusive classical music label.
The song made Louis Armstrong the oldest male to top the charts, at sixty-six years and ten months old. Armstrong's record was broken in 2009 when the cover of Islands in the Stream recorded for Comic Relief - which included 68-year-old Tom Jones - reached number one.

ABC Records' European distributor EMI forced ABC to issue a What A Wonderful World album in 1968 (catalogue number ABCS-650) which did not chart in the US due to ABC's non-promotion of it,but did chart in the UK where it was issued by Stateside Records with catalogue number SSL 10247 and peaked on the British chart at #37.

The sounds of Louis Armstrong’s trumpet and signature voice will ring throughout the French Quarter this weekend at the Satchmo SummerFest, but some renditions might not sound so familiar. Tonight, Opera on Tap, the barhopping opera group, is taking Armstrong’s music where it has never been before – into the world of opera!

The question is how to take Armstrong’s world of jazz and create opera pieces that are worthwhile while honoring the New Orleans icon. Todd Simmons, Executive Director of the New Orleans Opera Association, believes that isolating the music from the man is the best way to pay tribute. “We’re not trying to re-do it in any manner, not at all, because you can’t do that,” Simmons says. “We’re trying to do it in our own unique way.”

He points out that by taking the songs made famous by Armstrong and transforming them to fit the opera group’s style is actually mimicking the philosophy displayed by Satchmo himself. “What’s interesting is most of the music of Louis Armstrong wasn’t his to begin with. ‘Basin Street Blues’ was a Spencer Williams song; ‘St. Louis Blues’ was a W.C. Handy song.”

By the time of his death in 1971, the man known around the world as Satchmo was widely recognized as a founding father of jazz—a uniquely American art form. His influence, as an artist and cultural icon, is universal, unmatched, and very much alive today.

Pops. Sweet Papa Dip. Satchmo. He had perfect pitch and perfect rhythm. His improvised melodies and singing could be as lofty as a moon flight or as low-down as the blood drops of a street thug dying in the gutter. Like most of the great innovators in jazz, he was a small man. But the extent of his influence across jazz, across American music and around the world has such continuing stature that he is one of the few who can easily be mentioned with Stravinsky, Picasso and Joyce. His life was the embodiment of one who moves from rags to riches, from anonymity to internationally imitated innovator. Louis Daniel Armstrong supplied revolutionary language that took on such pervasiveness that it became commonplace, like the light bulb, the airplane, the telephone.

Louis Armstrong’s achievements are remarkable. During his career, he developed a way of playing jazz, as an instrumentalist and a vocalist, which has had an impact on all musicians to follow.

Armstrong recorded hit songs for five decades, and his music is still heard today on television and radio and in films.

Take Louis Armstrong home with you! Essential Louis Armstrong [Original recording remastered]

Even at two discs and 37 tracks, it's difficult to say that this set contains everything that is truly essential from Louis Armstrong's monumental five-decade career. It does, however, do a great job of touching down at key points, and nicely balances Armstrong's various guises as a groundbreaking sideman, soloist, bandleader, singer, and ultimately, American legend, icon, and the very embodiment of the face of jazz. Opening with Armstrong blowing accomplished blues choruses on 1925's "Sugar Foot Stomp" while a member of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, moving through his revolutionary Hot Five and Seven sessions and his years fronting and leading the Armstrong All-Stars, and concluding with 1968's poignant summation "What a Wonderful World," this lovingly assembled overview sketches a broad outline of perhaps the most important American musician of the 20th century. Armstrong's genius on the trumpet is aptly documented here, but so too is his equally innovative vocal style, which raised scat singing to the level of art, and brought the fluid, bending flow of the horn line into pop vocal phrasing, resulting in definitive versions of "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Black and Blue" (one of the most subtly important vocal performances in the history of Western pop), "Lazy River," "Georgia On My Mind," "Stardust," "Blueberry Hill" (before Fats Domino), "Mack the Knife" (before Bobby Darin), and "What a Wonderful World."
Serious Armstrong fans and collectors will already have everything here, but if you only have room in your collection for a single Armstrong set, and you want something that touches on the full sweep of his jazz and pop contributions, then this is the one to get. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi

Armstrong remains a deep force in our American expression. Not only do we hear him in those trumpet players who represent the present renaissance in jazz — Wynton Marsalis, Wallace Roney, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton — we can also detect his influence in certain rhythms that sweep from country-and-western music all the way over to the chanted doggerel of rap.

Read more aboyt Louis Armstrong by buying Louis Armstrong: Musician [Mass Market Paperback]

Armstrong wrote two autobiographies, more than ten magazine articles, hundreds of pages of memoirs, and thousands of letters.

SOURCES: TIME: 100 by Stanley Crouch


THE ARMSTRONG ARIA by Eli Gay, Off Beat Magazine


Happy Birthday to a wonderful man who continues to entertain beyond his physical lifetime! Thank you Louis!!

"If I have offended one person, I have offended one person too many"
-Richard Skipper

Here's to an INCREDIBLE day for ALL!


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Tomorrow's blog will be about a very special day in my life. Hope you'll all join me in celebrating that.


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Richard Skipper,

1 comment:

  1. I have a complete and accurate discography of all singles released by "Satchmo" within the "35000 / 40000" pop music series on Columbia Records, including: reissues of his 1920's/30's "Hot Five" sides; his 1950's run with the label during which he recorded his 1955 version of "Mack the Knife"; and his last single for them from 1966. This data I have compiled came directly from the archives of Sony Music which now owns Columbia, where I did research over a period of four years in the 1990's. The information includes: original release dates of 78's and 45's by catalogue number, matrix numbers for both 78 and 45 speeds (Columbia had different criteria for each speed), and recording dates for each side. If anyone is interested in obtaining any or all of this data for a minimal fee or stipend, please contact me (or have them contact me) at:

    I have written and published a comprehensive discography on every pop single released on Columbia Records between 1939 and 1974 - of which some of Mr. Armstrong's stints with the label is a part.