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Honoring 110 for Louis



That's sheet music for "True Confession," the title song from Carole Lombard's 1937 movie of the same name. Written by Sam Coslow and Friedrich Hollander (the same Hollander who wrote the Marlene Dietrich classic "Falling In Love Again"), several artists recorded the song, including Dorothy Lamour, Connie Boswell and the Adrian Rollini Quintette. But the best-known version was recorded Jan. 13, 1938 in Los Angeles by a man who was born 110 years ago tomorrow...Louis Armstrong.



Armstrong never celebrated his birthday on Aug. 4 -- because he didn't know it. Armstrong believed he had been born on July 4, 1900, and thus celebrated it in conjunction with Independence Day. (Appropriate, that, insomuch as Louis helped America declare its musical independence through his playing, singing and those wonderful vehicles called jazz and swing.) Baptismal records in New Orleans with the actual date of his birth weren't found until 1987.

I've been noting Armstrong's birth anniversaries on this site since 2007, and this will be no exception. I assume many of you own at least a few Armstrong records; he cut thousands of tracks over nearly half a century, and it's never too late to discover the genius, the pure unadulterated joy that is Louis. (Lombard probably owned several of his records -- we know that she had his "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal, You" piped over the public address system during a rather somber scene in Clark Gable's film "Parnell.")

All sorts of Armstrong anthologies and box sets are available; in fact, a new 10-CD set called "Satchmo: Louis Armstrong, The Ambassador Of Jazz" has just been released (to learn more, including a complete track listing, go to http://theseconddisc.com/2011/07/13/hello-louis-massive-10-cd-armstrong-box-coming-from-universal/). The cover is below:



And Thursday, as it does for each of Louis Armstrong's two "birthdays" each year, WKCR-FM, Columbia University's radio station, will air 24 hours of Satchmo; you never know what segments of Armstrong's multi-faceted career will be featured. His groundbreaking work with the Hot Five (and occasionally, the Hot Seven) from 1926 to 1928? His forays into pop music around 1930, influencing vocalists from Bing Crosby on down? His work fronting an orchestra in the middle and late 1930s, when he achieved considerable chart success? Or his postwar work with the smaller combo known as the All-Stars? You can find out more, and get a link to WKCR's website, at http://www.studentaffairs.columbia.edu/wkcr/story/louis-armstrong-birthday-broadcast-0. (If you're in the New York metro area, it's on 89.9 FM).

And in New York, specifically the Corona section of Queens, is the house where Louis lived from 1943 until his death on July 6, 1971 (two days after WKCR broadcast the first of its Armstrong marathons). The house is now a museum, enabling one to learn more about this amazing American ambassador. Visiting information can be found at http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/visiting/overview.htm.

Finally, to give you a feel for Armstrong's artistry, here's a record he cut in 1929, "(What Did I Do To Be So) Black And Blue," written by Fats Waller, Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf and introduced in the musical "Hot Chocolates." In the show, it was sung by a dark-skinned black woman dismayed that her lighter-skinned black counterparts were more socially popular. Armstrong makes it an anthem about the entirety of the black experience, and while Ethel Waters had a hit with it in 1930, Louis' version remains the best known. This is from a 1937 reissue.

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