Continued from part one
Armstrong was not only a major influence on the invention of swing, he was also considered the King of Swing for a long time: During the heyday of swing in the thirties and forties, Louis Armstrong enjoyed great success.
In 1930, Louis Armstrong decided to move to Los Angeles: During the Great Depression, many clubs had to close and bands disbanded. Last but not least, the audience stayed away. But Hollywood remained an exception: the capital of film celebrities attracted numerous musicians from the jazz scene – including Louis Armstrong.
In the thirties, Louis Armstrong became an entertainer: he knew how to combine jazz music with entertainment and thus celebrated great success, both on stage and on record. Because of his performance on stage, Louis Armstrong reached people who had no idea about jazz at the time.
In 1932 Louis Armstrong arrived in England for his first foreign tour: Jazz music was hardly known in Europe until then. A reporter in England was even so nervous that he called Armstrong Satchmo instead of Satchelmouth, Armstrong’s nickname.
This is how Louis Armstrong’s nickname Satchmo came about, which was to accompany him from then on.
Armstrong and his relationship to bebop
In the late thirties, Armstrong appeared in jazz versions of Broadway plays – including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a jazz version of Shakespeare’s classic.
In the forties, a new style of jazz emerged: Bebop. At the time, bebop was considered the successor to the classic New Orleans jazz represented by Louis Armstrong: with the birth of a new genre, other, younger musicians rose to prominence.
The swing era also came to an end after World War II.
Louis Armstrong stuck to his musical style: bebop abolished all the rules that previously defined jazz. For Armstrong, who came from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, it was impossible to adapt his style.
Louis Armstrong and His All Stars
Shortly after World War II, Hollywood directors began to show interest in jazz history: In the film New Orleans (1947), which deals with the birth of jazz, Louis Armstrong played himself.
With his band Louis Armstrong and His All Stars, Armstrong enjoyed great success from the end of the forties: the band was invited to jazz festivals worldwide and sold a lot of records. Armstrong brought pianist Earl Hines, among others, into his band, with whom he had already worked in the past. The All Stars were a return to the roots of jazz: this return was favored by the general interest in the history of jazz.
Between 1947 and 1960, the All Stars were the most successful jazz band in the world.
In 1956, Louis Armstrong and his band appeared in the movie-musical High Society – the other leading roles were played by Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Louis Armstrong and His All Stars provided background for nearly every piece of music in High Society.
Armstrong had become a cultural ambassador: his role in the invention of jazz and swing made him famous worldwide. Although bebop music started to supplant traditional jazz more and more from 1945 onward, Louis Armstrong and his band remained like a rock: Although Armstrong also interpreted hit songs later in his career, he always remained connected to New Orleans jazz.
We Have All the Time in the World
One of the last highlights of his career as a musician was the James Bond theme song We Have All the Time in the World for the Lazenby Bond On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). The theme song still stands out among James Bond songs today.
Composer John Barry chose Armstrong for the theme song because of his ability to “deliver the title line with irony.” Although the song carries a romantic note and is therefore popular at weddings, it has an ironic meaning in the film itself.
In 2021, the melody of We Have All the Time in the World was used once more for the Daniel Craig Bond No Time to Die.
Louis Armstrong toured until shortly before his death. No one could stop him from performing and practicing his trumpet playing.
On July 6, 1971, Louis Armstrong died at his home in Queens, New York.
Main sources: Knauer, Wolfram: “Black and Blue – Louis Armstrong [His Life and Music]”, 2021 Reclam publishing house and numerous recordings by Louis Armstrong
Cover picture: © Simon von Ludwig