Stating that Louis Armstrong was influential in the history of jazz would be a grave understatement. Born in 1901 to a poverty stricken family in New Orleans, he became renowned for being a genius on the trumpet, establishing himself as a household name not only in the United States but across the world. Jazz broke into the mainstream during the beginning of the 20th century, with Armstrong becoming one of its leading figures.
His talent, humour and warm presence can be felt while listening to his interviews and music, with songs such as What a Wonderful World and Dream a Little Dream of Me becoming especially popular with audiences.
Louis Armstrong was passionate about his work and the world of music until his death in 1971. Here’s a selection of his greatest quotes.
‘If you still have to ask, shame on you.’
(His answer to the question ‘What is Jazz?’, often misquotes as ‘Man, if you gotta ask you’ll never know.’)
‘If it’s left to people that’s peaceful with music, there wouldn’t be no wars. Wouldn’t be none.’
(Interview with Willis Conover, 13 July 1956)
‘The way they’re treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell.’
(‘The New York Times’, 19 September 1957)
‘When I was a kid in New Orleans I could see so many things that was brought from Africa all over the world.’
(Interview with Studs Terkel, 24 June 1962)
‘Making money ain’t nothing exciting to me. … You might be able to buy a little better booze than some wino on the corner. But you get sick just like the next cat, and when you die you’re just as graveyard dead as he is.’
(‘Ebony magazine’, November 1964)
‘I think it’s nice to have a lot of friends and a lot of fans. They never let you down. What more can you ask in life? I think I’m blessed.’
(Interview with Les Tomkins, 1 January 1965)
‘The people put me in my seat, and I’ll never let them down. And there’s no problem: they love music, and I love music too.’
(‘The Slivovice Interview’, 1965)
‘Seems to me, it ain’t the world that’s so bad but what we’re doin’ to it. And all I’m saying is, see, what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance. Love baby, love.’
(Spoken intro to ‘What a Wonderful World’, 1970)
‘I don’t want to prove anything. I just like to blow my horn. And I enjoy hearing myself play.’
(Interview for ‘Jasmin magazine’, 1971)