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Louis Armstrong, In His Own Words: Selected Writings Paperback – May 24, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (May 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019514046X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195140460
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

These writings from jazz great Louis Armstrong swing with the same warmth, rhythms, and inventive phrasing that made his music so popular. Armstrong toured with a typewriter and used it often for journals, writing letters to friends or strangers, and supplying reporters with material about his life. Eavesdropping backstage on Armstrong and his bandmates would make worthwhile reading for any jazz fan or historian, regardless of Armstrong's ability as a writer. But Armstrong writes well, in a style completely his own. Editor Brothers provides context and insight through short introductions to each piece. But he has a deep respect for Armstrong and has interfered as little as possible with his idiosyncratic writing. Armstrong developed a unique usage of quotation marks, commas, dashes, and underscoring that gives the writing its rhythm. In a letter to his manager, Joe Glaser, he writes ``IJust, Love, Your, Checks, in, My POCKETSOH They look so pretty, until, I hate like hell to cash them.'' Armstrong uses jazz argot, much of it now assimilated into the language, translating when he thinks it necessary: ``Here's how we were busted (arrested to you) . . .'' Of some sharp sight-reading musicians he writes, They might read a Fly Speck, if it get in the way.'' The collection covers Armstrong's entire life, from his poor beginnings in New Orleans to his heyday in Chicago to his last years in Corona, New York. But the most compelling reading comes from Armstrong on his passions for music, gage (marijuana), and laxatives. He even signed a telegram to President Eisenhower (offering to take ``those little negro children personally into Central High School'') ``Am Swiss Krissly Yours . . .'' Swiss Kriss was the herbal laxative to which Armstrong credited his health. This collection transcends jazz and conventional grammar, revealing the humor and spirit of a legendary entertainer. (29 halftones) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A fascinating collection of the unpublished writings of jazz trailblazer Armstrong, perhaps the most prolific writer among the jazz greats.... These revealing letters and writings give readers a fascinating glimpse into Armstrong's early musical influences, rise to fame, life on the road, role in the Civil Rights movement, and final years. Carefully preserving Armstrong's idiosyncratic style and adding previously unpublished photos, Brothers illuminates the character and times of a jazz icon."--Library Journal

"Louis Armstrong was a wonderful writer, vivid and candid, but until now his most personal reflections were known only to researchers. Thomas Brothers has superbly collected them in an entertaining volume that will prove indispensable to anyone who wants to understand the genius who transformed American music."--Gary Giddins, author of Visions of Jazz

"This book is like a long visit to Louis Armstrong's house in Queens.... Delightful and revealing.... By itself, this book explains why Louis Armstrong was by far the greatest and warment communicator jazz shall ever know."--George Avakian, jazz record producer

"Scholarly but approachable and engrossing, the book adds vitally to our knowledge of one of the greatest twentieth-century Americans."--Booklist

Louis Armstrong, In His Own Words is essential reading on the life of this legendary figure and the early jazz scene."--Down Beat

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By B. KENNEDY on July 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Of the 21 books I have collected which are either by or about Louis Armstrong, this is definitely the one I would choose if I was allowed to keep only one. Basically a collection of autobiographical pieces, interviews, letters and so on, it reveals more of Armstrong as a man than all the other books put together. It also proves that, just as Armstrong had his own unique voice as a musician, so he has virtually invented his own language when doing his "typing" as he modestly called it. Grammar and punctation have been used this way nowhere else. Particularly moving are Armstrong's lengthy reminiscences of his early life in New Orleans, Chicago and elsewhere. Yes, his childhood was severely deprived but he recalls it not just without self-pity but with a kind of joy - joy in his family, in the friends who helped him along the way and, of course, his discovery of his own innate talent for both playing and singing. The book is filled with affectionate pen-portraits, as well as sharp social comment and, at times, with indignation at the injustices of life, whether suffered by himself or others. Equally moving are the pieces written when his life was nearing its end yet still exuding that same extraordinary open-ness and generosity of spirit which are humbling to experience. If anyone wants to know what Louis was like, and if they can take a little time to tune in to his vivid and utterly unself-conscious style, this is the book they should read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
He was the greatest of all jazz-musicians. He was a founding father of the form. No one could play the horn like him, and no one could sing his gravelly voiced songs like him.

"I'm white inside

that can't help my case

cause I can't hide

what is on my face.

Old feather bed,

Filled up with lead

Feel like Ole Ned

Wish I wuz dead,

What did I do to be so black and blue?

One of the finest music critics writing today, Terry Teachout, says that this book is true Satchmo and he would have loved it to be twice as long as it is. The more Satchmo the better.

While it is true that he knew problems with the black-community in later years because some held him to be serving the 'Man' the truth was he brought great honor and dignity to not only blacks in America but all Americans.

And above all he brought joy and beauty through his music into the lives of so many.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on June 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Satch fans will find a whole lot more to our hero than we knew before. For one thing,his 1954 bio was severely edited and we get some of the raw stuff here. Satch wrote as eloquently (and uniquely) as he sang. He does not hold back on his views of race (see "Louis Armstrong and the Jewish Family" (1970) which may shock some people and outrage others, as is true with almost everything else here. He holds forth on his love of "Swiss Kriss" and its after effects and delivers a heartfelt letter to a fan in Vietnam closing with the lyrics of "You'll Never Walk Alone."
Would be nice if the complete unedited documents were here in a multivolume series,but this will suffice. Swiss Krissly yours.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilder on September 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like the jazz he played, Armstrong's words are lyrical and poetic. I got into the rhythm of the words and it made me feel as if he were talking to me personally, telling me his story. A must read for fans of Louis Armstrong.
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