Louis Daniel Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971) was a jazz trumpeter and singer who gained widespread recognition in the 1920s. He was born and raised in New Orleans, the birth place of jazz, and is one of the most influential figures of the genre.
Armstrong helped to shift the focus of jazz from an improvisational style to a solo performance style. After relocating with his mentor Joe “King” Oliver to Chicago, he began to play in the Creole Jazz Band and garnered attention for his performances at cutting contest musical competitions. After moving to New York at the request of Fletcher Henderson, Armstrong established himself as a prominent soloist. After getting married, he returned to Chicago and began to form his own jazz bands. By the 1950’s, Armstrong was solidified as a music icon.
Louis Armstrong has a very distinct and recognizable voice. His raspy tone, improvisational skills and scat singing are all some of his trademarks. He was able to bend the melody and lyrics of songs, captivate audiences, and amaze with his command over the trumpet. His influence spans many different generations and genres as he was one of the first black artists to crossover into mainstream/white popularity and international recognition.
During the Harlem Renaissance, Louis Armstrong was known as “The World’s Greatest Trumpet Player”. He inspired other musicians but also non-musicians such as the poet and author Langston Hughes. Hughes credited Armstrong for being one of the most important figures in jazz, a genre that inspired him as a writer. Armstrong’s performances also brought together black and white audiences, a rare occurrence at the time.
Louis Armstrong is not only a jazz icon but also will forever be regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.