Tag Archives: WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

“HE CONQUERS THE WORLD”

Don’t let the commercial at the start put you off . . . here is a young hero, Ricky Riccardi, speaking on television about our shared Hero, Louis Armstrong and his House, here.

Doing it “for posterity.”

And if you’re looking for a good book, I suggest this.

May your happiness increase!

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“A FORCE OF NATURE”: RICKY RICCARDI TALKS about LOUIS on AL JAZEERA (April 29, 2012)

Louis Armstrong was Ambassador Satch, spreading joy and enlightenment throughout the world.  An ambassador inspired by him, our own Ricky Riccardi — the Louis Armstrong House Museum Archivist and author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years –appeared on Al Jazeera English this afternoon to discuss the new recording “Satchmo at the National Press Club,” the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and Louis’s role as a civil rights pioneer:

Good deal!

Please remember to keep voting for the Louis Armstrong House Museum at www.partnersinpreservation.org daily through May 21 to help restore Louis’s garden!

May your happiness increase.

‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN CORONA, QUEENS (June 26, 2011)

Louis Armstrong was (appropriately) born in Louisiana, but his country is everywhere someone is humming a few notes from BLUEBERRY HILL or remembering that his face (in the words of Ida Melrose) radiates “kindness and compassion.”

But perhaps the capital of the land of Louis, the vortex, is in the garden of a brick house in Corona, Queens, where he and Lucille lived for over twenty-five years.   It’s now called the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and it will be the site of jazz concerts and other celebrations this summer: check out http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org. for the good news.

Louis and the neighbors in Corona, celebrating on July 4, 1969

What could be more appropriate than assembling there, among friends, for a Sunday afternoon celebration of Ricky Riccardi’s moving new book, WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: THE MAGIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S LATER YEARS? 

Here are three video clips from Ricky’s presentation.  Hide the children: Louis himself utters a naughty word . . . . but with good reason, as the story is one of his being treated in a demeaning way because of the color of his skin.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Thank you, Ricky, for working on that beautiful book and telling us all about it.  Thank you, Louis, for being!

“THE CAUSE OF HAPPINESS”: WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: THE MAGIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S LATER YEARS

Ricky Riccardi’s new book, WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: THE MAGIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S LATER YEARS (Pantheon), will be published in a week, and it has already gotten a glowing review in the Washington Post, with NPR and The New York Times coverage to come.  (You can read the reviews and Ricky’s interview in JAZZ TIMES by clicking here):

http://dippermouth.blogspot.com/2011/06/more-news-and-reviews.html

Full disclosure: my name crops up in the acknowledgments, and I admired Ricky’s work long before this book came out.  But I would think this book was magical even if I’d never met its author.

On its surface, this biography depicts the last quarter-century of Louis Armstrong’s life — his years of global popularity as a beloved figure, the years of HELLO, DOLLY! and WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD.

But the real story in this book is the gap between public perception and essential reality.  “To be great is to be misunderstood,” Emerson wrote, and it rings true here.  Artists cannot defend themselves against those who choose to interpret their work.  There is often a huge gap between what artists create, how the “experts” and “critics” perceive it, and how the art is represented to the world.

There have been many books about Louis — the best of them have been Terry Teachout’s POPS, and LOUIS by Max Jones and John Chilton.  (I am passing over the other biographies, marred by their distance from the subject or by personal rancors.)

But Ricky’s book deeply and effectively faces the complex question of what it is to be a working artist in the modern world.  An artist working in the public world — not a painter or a poet in a studio, but a “performer” on television, on records, onstage.

Louis lived to make music, and to “lay it on the public.”  A musician needs a community, both on and off stage.  Louis was no recluse; he didn’t scorn his audiences.  He spent his days and nights, consciously and subconsciously, living for what would come out of his horn, how he would sing.

This was his quest, his joy, and his “hustle,” what he did for a living.  He didn’t demand to be taken seriously as An Artist, but he did know that he was creating masterpieces; he was proud of his art and the pleasure it brought and continues to bring.

Thus, when he began to be sneered at (and that’s not too strong a word) as an Uncle Tom, an “entertainer,” someone who had sold out, had lost his creativity, had turned his back on “the truth,” even “a good-natured buffoon,” these cruel misinterpretations turned Emerson’s words into knives.

Another artist might have turned his back on his critics and spent his last quarter-century in wounded seclusion.  Louis worked harder; he toured the world; he became “Ambassador Satch,” he created astonishing beauties.  The audiences understood this in deep spiritual ways, even if they had never read Gunther Schuller.

But it took this book — the new material in it and Ricky’s affectionate, dogged diligence — to bring Louis, complete and complicated, to life once again.  And here I want to move slightly to the book itself — and its author.

Ricky Riccardi is, first off, a fine writer.  Not fussy, not academic, but someone whose vigorous, human speaking voice resonates through these pages.  So the book is a pleasure to read: I rationed the pages I allowed myself each night so that it wouldn’t end too soon, as I knew it had to.  He has so steeped himself in the life of the man he is celebrating (and it is a celebratory book!) that his easy assurance illuminates every page.  But the reader never feels intimidated by an impending avalanche of facts and dates and itineraries.

This book places the living Louis Armstrong in front of us, seen anew — the man who had a very intricate relationship with his manager, Joe Glaser, but was in charge of that relationship, not its victim.  There is an astonishing long letter from Louis to Glaser on the subject of marijuana — a revelation not only in the tale it tells, but in Louis’s angry eloquence.

Ricky has delved more deeply into Louis’s private tapes than any biographer before him, thus the book is full of new insights rather than being a synthetic assemblage of what other people have written.  I was surprised and delighted (dee-lighted, really) on every page.  And while this biography is no uncritical fan letter, its affection comes through from start to finish — a fitting celebration of Louis, who created and felt “the love and warmth of a million people.”

As a working jazz musician, Ricky also understands much more about the music than many writers who have been on the scene longer.  Even though you don’t need to be a musicologist to read this book, and there is not one intimidating transcribed solo (just lovely photographs), the book never feels distant from Louis’s art.

Louis Armstrong lived “in the cause of happiness.”  Although he knew his art was unique, he wore his achievements lightly, “I’m not lookin’ to be on no high pedestal.  [The people who hear me] get their soul lifted because they got the same soul I have the moment I hit a note.”

More than any other biography of Louis Armstrong, Ricky’s book vibrates with those truths.  Even if you are someone who appreciates Louis Armstrong only casually, you will find in this book a deep, rewarding, honest portrait of a man, an artist, his century.

It’s an extraordinary biography and a wonderful book.  And it brings to same joy that Louis did.

THIS WONDERFUL WORLD

I have just finished reading the galleys of Ricky Riccardi’s WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: THE MAGIC OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S LATER YEARS (Pantheon).  I am a very severe critic of biographies — where odd things happen.

Sometimes the writer gets so caught up in him / herself that the book becomes self-referential, an unintentional autobiography, the writer gazing lovingly in the mirror.  Some biographies end up rancorously, with the writer deciding that after all the Great Man or Woman was really rotten.  And some biographies are unoriginal compilations of what everyone else has written.

I was ready to love Ricky’s book because I love both the subject and am very fond of the author, but I was not prepared for how superb it is.

It is full of original research, new first-hand tales and evidence on every page.  It is beautifully written, casual without being flippant.  It is splendidly annotated but never academic.  It is full of light and joy without being idolatrously adoring.

As I write this, I am surrounded by biographies of Louise Bogan and of Henry “Red” Allen, of Frank O’Connor and Pee Wee Russell.  Riccardi has written a book worthy of the best ones on my shelves or on yours.

It won’t be officially published until late June, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from ordering it.  It made me laugh a good deal; it made me think; it made me cry.  And the energy and soul of Louis shines through every page.

http://www.amazon.com/What-Wonderful-World-Magic-Armstrongs/dp/0307378446/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1299530493&sr=1-1

WHAT WOULD LOUIS DO?  ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS: CLICK HERE!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

“WE’RE ONLY HERE TO HAVE FUN”

I celebrate Flemming Thorbye again for sharing this clip from Danish television (October 2008).  In it, Joe Muranyi talks about Louis Armstrong and plays YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE, warming up with the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys.  Joe’s candid recollections of Louis and WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD are priceless, as is the music.  If American television was like this, I would still have my set.