An Armstrong Full of Happiness, With a Dash of Blues

The late 1920s, early 1930s, was a blissful time for Black music. Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Louis Armstrong, and Cab Calloway blessed ears everywhere with euphoric sounds. Get ready for a playlist full of spirit.

  1. Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey (Mother of  the Blues) – Prove it on Me: One song I chose to put in my ‘playlist’ is Ma Rainey, Prove it on Me song. I chose this song because it is the embodiment of care free, black girl magic. In the second stanza, she states in one verse, “Folks say I’m crooked. I didn’t know where she took it. I want the whole world to know.” When she says this, I feel she sets the tone for the rest of the song. She’s foreshadowing what she will do in the stanza; making her sexuality clear. Ma Rainey then proceeds to say, “They say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me. Sure got to prove it on me; Went out last night with a crowd of my friends. They must’ve been women, ’cause I don’t like no men.” This is the stanza that shows what the song is all about. To me, this part of of the song best captures Ma Reiney’s spirit and essence. Despite the time period that she’s in, she is bold enough to make such a controversial statement. In addion to her boldness, she affirms herself with the repetion of the verse, “Sure got to prove it on me.” I think overall, this song is a reminder of what I and anybody else should want in their life: to be a care-free black woman who doesn’t care about the implications that societry tries to put on us or the boxes they try to put us in.
  2. Louis Armstrong – The Basin Street Blues: The second song I put on this playlist was Louis Armstrong, The Basin Street Blues. I chose this song because it made me think of one of my favorite shows at the moment, The Originals (Who wouldn’t like another cliché vampire show?) The show is set in New Orleans and although the big thematic message of the show is family, they also touch on the idea of how magical New Orleans is. In the first stanza, Armstrong sings, “We’ll take a trip to the land of dreams, blowing down the river, down to New Orleans… That’s where the line and the dark folks meet, A heaven on earth, they call it Basin street.” I think the imagery and the hyperbole of it being “heaven on earth” in this verse gives the reader a mood of hope and a sense of magic that is in this place. Through out the song, the repetition of Basin Street is used. When I looked it up, I found out the street was a famous place for jazz and blues musicians to make a name for themselves. After finding this information out, Basin Street became a symbol in the song for hopes and ambitions of the future. It reminded me of why I wanted to and eventually came to Spelman. It was a place of sanctuary. It was also a place where I knew I would grow into a successful, hollistically wealthy being later in life, similar to how musicians felt about Basin Street.
  3. Louis Armstrong – I’m in the Mood for Love: The third song I chose was Louis Armstrong, I’m in the Mood for Love. I chose this song because it would naturally put a smile on anyone’s face! It reminds me of the song L-O-V-E- by Nat King Cole, from the movie the Parent Trap. When Armstrong sings such things as, “Heaven is in your eyes, bright as the stars we’re under…. We put our hearts together, now we are one, I’m not afraid.” It gives the listener an imagery of peace, love, and happiness. The hyperboles and simile’s he uses in the song also give a connotation of happiness and young love. The auditory sound of the instrumentals in the beginng and end of the song just adds to the mood of happiness and tone of radiant. The song makes me think of a random couple skipping around a small town laughing in the rain, unbothered, because they’re enjoying one another’s company so much.
  4. Louis Armstrong – Lazy River: The fourth song I chose is another Louis Armstrong song named Lazy River. I chose this song because it’s another fun song that sounds like a euphoric day for me! I’m someone who loves to sit in the sun and listen to what’s going on in the world. I like to be in tune to nature, minus the bugs. This song reminds me exactly of someone who’s going out to become in tune with nature. In this song, I believe Armstrong uses the river as a motif. Rivers usually symbolize how nuturing nature is, life in general, and the flow of time. Everything that surrounds the river can be seen as imagery. Armstrong uses several visual imagery examples and an auditory imagery. I feel like this is used to really place the listener into a scene of blissfulness and peace. This song really makes you think about the perfect day.
  5. Cab Calloway – I’ve Got the World on a String: Last, but certainly not least, I chose Cab Calloway, I’ve Got the World on a String. I chose this song because when I first heard it I thought that it was a positive affirmation type of song. I believed this went well with my playlist that focuses on self-enlightment and care-free happiness. I thought the song focused on the potential and power that we have as people to do whatever we set our mind to. After further listening to the song however, I noticed it was an extended metaphor! The world was a metaphor for the girl he was in love with. I seen it as him seeing the world in the girl. The repetition of the verse, I’m in love” reiterates how much he cares about the lady who the song is. Overall, I thought this was a really cute way for someone to say they were in love, or a cute way to tell someone that you’re in love with them.

I was given the range of 1928-1950 for song picks. I chose to focus on the late 1920s and early 1930s. Up above is a list of fire songs guarenteed to give you confidence and happiness when you may be feeling down!




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