Performing Arts

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Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong

Louis Daniel Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), nicknamed "Satchmo", "Satch", and "Pops", was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist, and actor who was among the most influential figures in jazz. Louis Armstrong was the son of Willie Armstrong, whose mother, Josephine, was born a slave. Willie Armstrong abandoned his family when Louis was born.

Louis’ mother was Mary Ann, or Mayann, who was born during the early decades of the 1880s. Mayann also abandoned her son, leaving him to be cared for by his paternal grandmother, Josephine. A Jewish family Karnofsky, who immigrated from Lithuania to the United States, took pity on Louis and brought him to their home. Mrs Karnovski sang him Russian lullabies, which he sang with her. Later he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, he became the adopted son of this family.
Mr. Karnofsky gave him money to buy his first musical instrument, as was the custom in Jewish families.
Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions such as St. James's Hospital and Go Down Moses.
He wrote a book about this Jewish family, who adopted him in 1907. And proudly spoke Yiddish fluently.
In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore the Star of David and said that in this family he learned "to live a real life and determination. When Louis was about 7, Mayann summoned him back to help when she became sick. By then she had another child to care for too and was living in Storyville, New Orleans – the ‘red light district’ of that city. Louis went to the local school but was often roaming the streets, hustling for money and selling newspapers. He formed a quartet and busked with other local boys. By the time he was in his teens, he was bringing in the largest proportion of the family income. In 1912 or 1913 Louis was consigned to Joseph Jones’ Colored Waifs’ Home for around 12 months. When Louis left the Waifs Home he lived briefly with his father. From there he moved back to his mother’s house in Storyville and began playing jazz; before long he began to play with some of the best New Orleans bands.

Louis Armstrong went on to become “one of the most important figures in twentieth-century music.”