Tag Archives: Fourth of July

NOT FLUENT IN YIDDISH, BUT HER “FIRECRACKER BABY,” JUST THE SAME (July 4, 2021)

Photograph courtesy of the Louis Armstrong House Museum

People often choose dramatic tales over duller evidence. The notion that Louis spoke fluent Yiddish has been proven untrue by THE Louis scholar, Ricky Riccardi, here. I will add my own comic eighth note to suggest that I am sure Louis knew “schmuck” and “putz” and a dozen other Yiddish words from his Jewish colleagues, and if not from them, from working with Mister Glaser, whose vocabulary, I am sure, was multi-lingual colorful.

But enough of that.

I grew up believing what Louis told us. Let that sink in for four bars. What he told us was that he was born on July 4, 1900. If the year has been shown to be 365 days off, by intent or accident, that doesn’t bother me. I am sure that none of us — as a matter of personal experience — knows the year of their birth; we know what was told to us.

Louis’ beloved mother didn’t have the opportunity to go to community college, and I don’t know the level of her adult literacy, nor do I care. But she did refer to her son as “her firecracker baby,” which to me is indisputable evidence of her associating Fourth of July celebrations with the tumult in her lower regions. If you hold to the August 4 date that is recorded in the baptismal record over Mayann’s story, you are once again asserting male myopia and obstinacy. When women get to write the tale . . .

So, happy birthday, Louis! We celebrate you! And, for a moment, imagine the more-barren cultural landscape that we would have if he had never existed.

Here’s some music for the Fourth:

May your happiness increase!

“WELL, WHAT YOU SAY, DIPPER?”

Louis Armstrong came to visit us in tangible form on July 4, 1901, and he transformed into spirit on July 6, 1971.  I know that so many lives would have been different — less illuminated — had he not existed.

Here is something in his honor, lest we forget his power to spread joy.

I find it odd that I’ve never seen sheet music of his theme song with his face on the cover — my copy of the song, from 1931, is a Mildred Bailey sheet — but the significance of that eludes me.  Here is Louis’ first recording of the song he would sing and play hundreds and thousands of times.

“Good evening, everybody!”

And if any disputatious readers want to fuss about July 4, 1901, take it up with Mayann, the mother of the “firecracker baby.”  If others wish to quarrel about “darkies,” I understand the impulse . . . but there are other, better ways to use one’s energy.

May your happiness increase!

NOW HERE COMES THE BEAUTIFUL PART: 1933 / 2012

Here is a wondrous (and famous) 1933 Louis Armstrong record, LAUGHIN’ LOUIE — which combines the comic pretense of the brassman who can’t play because he is laughing too hard with Louis’ stunning a cappella rendition of “Love Song,” a silent-movie theme by Minnie T. Wright (thanks to Vince Giordano for this discovery):

Imagine a world without Louis Armstrong.  Impossible and unthinkable.

Happy Birthday, Pops.  You are the beautiful part.  And my use of the present tense is no stage joke.

For the ultimate blogpost on LAUGHIN’ LOUIE, I offer the one written by the Louis-master, Ricky Riccardi — a feast for the ear and heart.  And thanks to all the vipers and musicians in the house: Clarence, Little Bobby Hacksaw, Milton Mesirow, and a thousand more.

May your happiness increase.