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What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years Hardcover – June 21, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
—Terry Teachout, author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong
“This is not only a tale of interest to jazz fans or academics but the climactic portion of the inspiring life story of a man who, against all odds, rose from extreme poverty and discrimination to become, indisputably, one of the stellar figures of the twentieth century . . . We need this book.”
—Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University
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Top Customer Reviews
If it is fair to judge a person by the standards of the times in which he lived, Pops was well ahead of the social curve of racial justice in America - much of the view of him as a Tom was made through a generational lens by younger musicians for whom he was a father figure who must be superseded. What he did behind the scenes in his own way is revealed in this book, and it should put to rest the notion that Pops was merely a genial entertainer, bowing and scraping before the White Establishment (what he really called Orval Faubus in 1957 - instead of "an uneducated plowboy" as the press rewrote his remarks - is instructive).
Whatever your take on the music some call jazz, at some point in the middle of the last century it came to be acknowledged as an art form. That this made some of its greatest musicians begin to think of themselves differently was a natural development, and over time the message of the music came to mirror more and more the message of mid-twentieth century art in general - it showed the changes in the human spirit inflicted by one of humanity's most brutal centuries. A crisis in faith, an increase in alienation, a dessication of sincerity in the face of monstrous cynicism - all these elements may be found in the music of the generations who followed Pops.Read more ›
Riccardi makes a case for the excellence of Satchmo's music during a time when some critics dismissed him as a repetitive entertainer. He also answers the critics who thought Armstrong was an uncle Tom, because his response to racism was different than theirs, and his clowning around on stage annoyed younger black musicians. These arguments have been made in other books, but Riccardi has made a new and authoritative account.
Although I always knew that he was a great musician, I did not appreciate Armstrong's greatness until now. During a time when jazz was sinking in popularity, Satchmo was becoming the most popular musician in the world. He was a musical machine, constantly on the road, entertaining night after night, keeping up the pace until his health failed. This book shares those same qualities: it is lengthy, full of detailed information and extensive notes.
"What a Wonderful Life" is essential reading for those who have an interest in the history of jazz. Although I wished for more details about his private life, that is not the focus of this work. That does not detract from the excellence of Riccardi's accomplishment. It is a book I will keep on my bookshelf for as long as I have a bookshelf.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book should be required reading for every fan of Louis Armstrong. The scope of the book deals with Armstrong's later years when he was traveling and performing with his small... Read morePublished 2 days ago by F. Norman Vickers
I love Pops and this book is about the latter days of his days on the planet ! Great insight to his genius . What a man!Published 5 months ago by bmachine
I am a lifelong fan of Louis Armstrong and his work. There has never been a more significant figure in Jazz, or all of American music. Read morePublished on August 16, 2013 by Historikitty
Am thoroughly enjoying this book. Like the focus on Louis' later years, bc that's the music I'm most familiar with.Published on January 18, 2013 by Danielita
This is a very thorough, yet immensely readable, bio of the last third of Pops' life. Mr. Riccardi shows how Pops had an ever-changing set list and various artistic sub-periods... Read morePublished on January 3, 2013 by Phil Lynch
This is simply a wonderful book. Extremely informative, well written, and painstakingly well-researched. A labor of love by a passionate jazz historian and fan, but also objective. Read morePublished on February 17, 2012 by Chris Adams
A truly wonderful book. I read dozens of books about Louis, including his own. But Ricky Riccardi's really goes deeply into some obscure facets of his life and personality which no... Read morePublished on February 15, 2012 by martin emiliano arias
The basic premise of this book is that the post-world War II Armstrong was just as innovative and as powerful a musical personality as he was with his Hot-5 and Hot-7 groups in the... Read morePublished on January 10, 2012 by Mike B