Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Pops! (You too, America!)

Today is the Fourth of July and that means a couple of things: fireworks, barbecues, American independence and Louis Armstrong. I know, I know, Louis was really born on August 4, 1901. That's fine...but there's just something about that July 4 date I, and many other Pops nuts, just can't give up. I think the big thing is that it was the date Louis himself celebrated for his entire lifetime. And have you ever seen Louis's draft card? There it is, a very unknown Louis in 1918 already claiming the July 4, 1900 date. Maybe he was already lying but something that's celebrated from 1918 to 1988 is hard to give up. And besides it's so damn perfect...what's more American than Louis Armstrong? The man owned the 20th century so he might as well have been born on July 4 of its first year.

I'm writing this at 8:38 in the morning here at the Louis Armstrong House Museum but there's already stuff jumping for dear old Pops. In fact, if you're in NY, come visit us because we're open and offering special birthday tours all day today with never-before-heard clips of Louis celebrating his big day. If you can't make it but, you're in the vicinity of the Internet (and to be reading this, I think that would be a given), head over to WKCR to listen to nonstop Pops until midnight tonight (Louis and Oscar Peterson is onright now..."What's New" is a gassuh!).

And if you're looking for something patriotic to play for the occasion, you can't miss with Louis's version of the "Star Spangled Banner." Here it is courtesy of YouTube: That performance comes from the Newport Jazz Festival, July 1, 1960...not quite July 4, but close enough. That entire concert is available to listen to for free atWolfgang's Vault so if you're bored at WKCR, head over there and listen one of my favorite Louis sets in glorious sound.

Of course, the most July-4th-themed song in the Pops canon is "Fireworks" so don't forget to listen to Louis and Earl Hines blast off on this Hot Five gem:



That'll do it for today but there's plenty of other Pops events going on. I'll be at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem every Tuesday this month, sharing treasures from my Pops collection, with a special afternoon session planned for July 14 at noon whereI'll be hosting a panel of trumpeters including Bria Skonberg, Warren Vache and Jon Faddis! Going to be a great time, guaranteed. Okay, friends, have a safe and happy fourth and don't forget to listen to nothing but Pops today (and every other day for that matter....).

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