Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life
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Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Louis Armstrong was the founding father of jazz and one of this century's towering cultural figures. The musical talents of Satchmo - as Armstrong became universally known - were prodigious and groundbreaking. After learning to blow his horn in the bordellos and honky-tonks of Storyville, New Orleans's bustling red-light district, he honed his sound on a Mississippi riverb...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published June 16th 1997 by Bantam Dell Pub Group (Trd)
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You get not only a bio of a great musician & person, you get a detailed description how Blacks lived New Orleans through the turn of the century. You also get a better understanding of how the pre-recording (and therefore unrecorded) sounds of untutored musicians became the roots of the New Orleans musical genre and how the odds were stacked against Louis. You come to understand his workaholism and his deference to his eventual agent, who probably exploited him.

As the book progresses, the hi...more
When I was fourteen years old I went to a Louis Armstrong concert and was absolutely mesmerized by the man who filled the entire fieldhouse with his awesome presence and brilliant musicianship. Fifty-plus years later, I'm quick to tell you that Louis Armstrong is still my favorite musician. In the years following that October 1961 concert, Louis came across as the ambassador of goodwill around the world, and his gravelly-voiced rendition of Hello, Dolly and What a Wonderful World reintroduced hi...more
Bill O'driscoll
Thoroughly engaging and notably enlightening biography. I went into it an Armstrong fan, but came away with a full understanding of why he's arguably the most important figure in American popular music (at least in the first half of the 20th century). Crucially, Bergreen paints a fine-grained picture of New Orleans as Armstrong lived it in his formative years, including the stint at a boy's home which was a major turning point in his life. We also get nice portraits of jazz giants like Buddy Bol...more
Bergreen tells a good story, but that's not enough to make this biography work. Too many of his facts are wrong and he doesn't provide particularly good documentation of his sources. It seems clear that he doesn't know too much about jazz music either. Louis Armstrong deserves much better than that.
Morris Nelms
Outstanding biography, with plenty of things I didn't know about Louis. If you are a jazz fan it's a must. If you love music it's a must. If you simply want to read the story of an inspired and inspirational life, it's a must.
Bought this after reading a favorable review some 13 years ago but then read a bunch of less than favorable reviews so it took me awhile to get around to it. Mostly the unfavorable reviews are right. This is only a serviceable biography with its best feature being the amount of talking the author allows Armstrong to do through his own writings. Armstrong wrote for almost all of his adult life. Letters, scraps of memoirs, articles. So his papers are a great resource and they pepper this biography...more
Michael Hillman
I love Louis but what makes this book really interesting is the description of the early years in New Orleans and Chicago.
Dec 11, 2009 Spiros rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interseted in larger than life performers
A thoroughly workmanlike account of the life of a truly great American: short on analysis, but rich in detail. I was struck by the parallels between Satchmo and that other towering figure of the Jazz Age, Babe Ruth; both men grew up in shambolic circumstances, both spending time in institutions where, amongst hardship and deprivation, they were given the chance to develop the skills with which they revolutionized their respective fields.
Excellent portrait of the artist who can arguably be called the greatest jazz musician who ever lived. Bergreen gives us Armstrong the man and musician with a meticulously detailed look at his life and career. Armstrong more than anyone seemed to embody the jazz philosophy that permeated the 20th Century. This book captures that spirit and shows us why Satchmo is really the indispensible figure in jazz.
Much more than a simple biography. I found this book to be a historical account of jazz itself, how the recording industry began, civil rights, the mob connection. Really a huge insight as to why things are the way they are and especially how jazz would not have been jazz without Louis Armstrong.
It was a very good read up until Louis became well known and successful and then the storyline dragged to the very end. Probably not the author's fault just how things played out.
Cheryl Mcenaney
One of the best biographies I've ever read, and definitely the best of the three Armstrong bios I've read so far. Outstanding research and presentation.
Apr 01, 2008 Jpaflas rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All
A really good bio on Louis. There is a reason he is so well known... most influential and one of the best jazz horn players ever.
Fascinating story, incredible musician, deftly told.
Where is my copy of this.
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Laurence Bergreen is an award-winning biographer, historian, and chronicler of exploration. His books have been translated into over 20 languages worldwide. In October 2007, Alfred A. Knopf published Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, a groundbreaking biography of the iconic traveler. Warner Brothers is developing a feature film based on this book starring Matt Damon and written by William Monahan...more
More about Laurence Bergreen...
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