Pops: A life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout

Jan 22, 2010

A life of Louis Armstrong by Terry TeachoutLouis Armstrong is an iconic figure in American popular culture and in jazz. This newest biography reveals a little more of the man than previous books, but the story is the same: Rising from the bottom of society in early twentieth-century New Orleans to virtually create jazz improvisation, becoming a popular music star, finding a niche in the entertainment world that ensures fame and fortune and ending life beloved by black and white, rich and poor, Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong comes to epitomize the American dream.

The author had access to tapes of hundreds of recordings that Armstrong made himself after hours. These reveal details about Armstrong's arrest for marijuana possession, his encounters with gangsters in Chicago and his anger at Eisenhower during the days of desegregation of the Little Rock schools in 1957. When I finished the book, I really felt as if I knew the human being a little better. The passages where Teachout analyzes musical recordings can be a tough go, but overall the book is very accessible. I read it in just a few days and stayed up til midnight to finish it.

Reviewed by Brent W.
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