Pops, Terry Teachout‘s new biography of Louis Armstrong, gets a rave review in the New York Times:
Louis Armstrong, a k a Satchmo, a k a Pops, was to music what Picasso was to painting, what Joyce was to fiction: an innovator who changed the face of his art form, a fecund and endlessly inventive pioneer whose discovery of his own voice helped remake 20th-century culture.
His determination to entertain and the mass popularity he eventually achieved, coupled with his gregarious, open-hearted personality, would obscure the magnitude of his achievement and win him the disdain of many intellectuals and younger colleagues, who dismissed much of what he did after 1929 as middlebrow slumming, and who even mocked him as a kind of Uncle Tom.
The full review of Pops by Michiko Kakutani is well worth reading. This is a book about a great musician and performer, but it’s also a story about race, American history and identity, and the nature of genius.
* * *
Hear Teachout read from the book–passages on Armstrong’s love for marijuana and his bold denunciations of segregation–in this Vanity Fair “Writers Reading” podcast.
* * *
And enjoy this 1956 performance in London… “Mack the Knife.”