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Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong Paperback – October 7, 2010
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2009: Crafted with a musician's ear and an historian's eye, Pops is a vibrant biography of the iconic Louis Armstrong that resonates with the same warmth as ol' Satchmo’s distinctive voice. Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout draws from a wealth of previously unavailable material – including over 650 reels of Armstrong's own personal tape recordings – to create an engaging profile that slips behind the jazz legend's megawatt smile. Teachout reveals that the beaming visage of "Reverend Satchelmouth" was not a mark of racial subservience, but a clear symbol of Louis's refusal to let anything cloud the joy he derived from blowing his horn. "Faced with the terrible realities of the time and place into which he had been born," explains Teachout, "he didn't repine, but returned love for hatred and sought salvation in work." Armstrong was hardly impervious to the injustices of his era, but in his mind, nothing was more sacred than the music. --Dave CallananProduct Description
Louis Armstrong was the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century and a giant of modern American culture. He knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts, wrote the finest of all jazz autobiographies--without a collaborator--and created collages that have been compared to the art of Romare Bearden. The ranks of his admirers included Johnny Cash, Jackson Pollock and Orson Welles. Offstage he was witty, introspective and unexpectedly complex, a beloved colleague with an explosive temper whose larger-than-life personality was tougher and more sharp-edged than his worshipping fans ever knew. Wall Street Journal arts columnist Terry Teachout has drawn on a cache of important new sources unavailable to previous Armstrong biographers, including hundreds of private recordings of backstage and after-hours conversations that Armstrong made throughout the second half of his life, to craft a sweeping new narrative biography of this towering figure that shares full, accurate versions of such storied events as Armstrong's decision to break up his big band and his quarrel with President Eisenhower for the first time. Certain to be the definitive word on Armstrong for our generation, Pops paints a gripping portrait of the man, his world and his music that will stand alongside Gary Giddins' Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams and Peter Guralnick's Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley as a classic biography of a major American musician.
Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Terry Teachout, Author of Pops: A Life of Louis ArmstrongDear Amazon Readers: Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, my new book, is the story of a great artist who was also a good man. A genius who was born in the gutter--and became a celebrity known in every corner of the world. A beloved entertainer who was more complex--and much tougher--than his fans ever imagined. It's not the first Armstrong biography, but it's the first one to tell Satchmo's story accurately. I based it in part on hundreds of private, after-hours recordings made by Armstrong himself, candid tapes in which he tells the amazing tale of his ascent to stardom in blunt, plainspoken language. I'm the first biographer to have had access to those tapes. Read Pops and you'll learn the facts about his 1930 marijuana arrest, his life-threatening run-in with the gangsters of Chicago, his triumphant Broadway and Hollywood debuts, his complicated love life, and much, much more. You'll also come away understanding exactly what it was that made him the most influential jazz musician of the twentieth century, an entertainer so irresistibly magnetic that he knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts four decades after he cut his first record. If you've ever thrilled to the sounds of "West End Blues," "Mack the Knife," "Hello, Dolly!" or "What a Wonderful World," this is the book for you and yours. Give Pops a read and find out all about the man from New Orleans who changed the face of American music. Sincerely yours, Terry Teachout
(Photo © Ken Howard)
Amazon Exclusive: Terry Teachout's Top 10 Louis Armstrong RecordingsIn Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, I tell the story of a beloved giant of jazz whose greathearted, larger-than-life personality shone through every record he made. Here are ten of my special favorites: 1. "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" (1933). Of all Louis Armstrong's records, this is the one I love best. Listen to how he floats atop the beat in the last chorus--he sounds just like a tenor going for a high C. 2. "West End Blues" (1928). The most celebrated of all Armstrong recordings and the quintessence of swing." 3. "Hotter Than That" (1927). “I just played the way I sang," Pops said. His wordless vocal on this Hot Seven track proves it. 4. "Star Dust" (1931). Further proof: listen to how he rewrites the lyrics to this familiar Hoagy Carmichael ballad. 5. "Darling Nelly Gray" (1937). Satchmo transforms an old slave song, backed up by the suavely swinging Mills Brothers. 6. "Jeepers Creepers" (1939). A charming souvenir of Armstrong's film career--he introduced this Johnny Mercer song in "Going Places." 7. "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" (1938). A boiling-hot big-band remake of a classic 1927 Hot Five side in which the trumpeter improves on perfection. 8. "You Rascal, You" (1950). Louis meets Louis in this raucous romp through an Armstrong standard, accompanied to high-spirited effect by Louis Jordan's Tympany Five. 9. "New Orleans Function" (1950). An old-time New Orleans jazz funeral recreated by the All Stars, with Earl Hines on piano and Jack Teagarden on trombone. 10. "Sleepy Time Down South" (1941). Armstrong's theme song, an irreplaceable example of his rich and resplendent lyricism.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Following his biographies of H.L. Mencken and George Balanchine, Teachout turns to another mighty pillar of 20th-century American culture, Louis Armstrong, a black man born at the turn of the century in the poorest quarter of New Orleans who by the end of his life was known and loved in every corner of the earth. It may seem odd to speak of someone of Louis Armstrong's stature as needing recuperation, but his popularity has long been held against him by jazz purists and other music critics. Teachout brings a fresh perspective that, while candid about the ways Pops could hold himself back artistically, celebrates his ambition and capacity for renewal. The other knock against Armstrong is that if white Americans loved him so much, he must have been an Uncle Tom, a notion Teachout neatly demolishes. While Armstrong was keenly aware of the social realities of his time, his relentless work ethic was fueled by an equally intense optimism. (His patience, however, was not infinite; he publicly criticized President Eisenhower as having no guts for failing to enforce desegregation—one of the few celebrities who could be so outspoken without suffering substantial backlash.) Teachout's portrait reminds us why we fell in love with Armstrong's music in the first place. B&w photos throughout, many previously unpublished. (Dec. 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Utilizing resources that were not available before his working career, Teachout has done a fine job of portraying a simple yet very complex man who was among those to create the music that was Jazz. He places in social context the New Jazz and gives a balanced portrait of the middle aged and elderly figure who had to confront the inevitable rise of a yet newer Jazz which rejected not only his music but his personal style. For he was always what he wanted to be: not only a player of music but an entertainer, a person who made his audience feel good. Difficult as the task is of providing a balanced view of the struggle between the new and the old, Teachout does a reasonable job of handling it within the confines of a book with limited space to penetrate deeply into the complex intellectual and emotional currents stirred up by changing concepts, not only of music, but of appropriate behavior for members of his Race when facing the public.
Teachout writes clearly, never descending into the intellectualism in content and style, which often produces a mind-dulling prolixity whose occasional emptiness is masked by its incomprehensibility. Perhaps because I came into the World early in his career (he was born the same year as my father was) the book was exciting to me, one which led me to marathon reading, a rarity in my life these days. I can wholeheartedly recommend it not only to fans of Jazz in any era, but also to those who want to see how talent, fierce determination, and a commitment to the virtues of hard work and self-improvement, led someone who started from the Lower Depths, to achieve recognition throughout the world.
POPS, Terry Teachout's biography of Louis Armstrong does that. With the skill of a fine writer, the accuracy of a fine journalist and the sensitivity of a musician (all of which he is) he approaches Louis Armstrong's innovative musical talent within the context of America's history; of the time that the book covers and America's past. Those things that made the man and his genius and personality almost inevitable.
Armstrong had many critics, particularly among some of his younger colleagues who saw him as an "uncle tom". Teachout explores his attitudes and concludes, at one point, that he was an "accomodationist". He believed that white people could grease the wheels for black people and acted accordingly, whether it was on stage, with his grinning and dancing, or in his relationship with his manager, Joe Glazer, who exploited him and undoubtedly stole from him.
But he was a generous and loving man, who cared very much for his own people and everyone who loved the music that he made.
For musicians and music lovers it's a must-read.