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Louis Armstrong on Music

DSC05854On Saturday, I decided to treat myself for my birthday with a visit to the Louis Armstrong House and Museum in Corona Park, Queens. A small row house on an unassuming block, Amstrong lived here from 1943 until his death in 1971; his wife Lucille remained in the house until her own death in 1983. It is a remarkable place: a virtual time capsule of Louis and Lucille's lives, containing all of their original furnishings and a massive archive of historical documents and artifacts.

Most amazing of all was that Armstrong compulsively recorded his day-to-day domestic life on a portable tape recorder, no doubt fully aware of their future value to historians and musicologists. To this day, some 650 reel-to-reel tapes survive, complete with handwritten track listings and collage-covered boxes that Armstrong decorated himself.

As you walk through the house, docents play several of these recordings, often in the rooms where they were first recorded. In Armstrong's second floor den, there's a 1965 recording, in which someone randomly asks him what he thinks of the Beatles. 

"I love the Beatles!" he exclaims, in his recognizably gravelly voice. "I love all kinds of music: the Beatles, symphonic music, opera. You've got to listen to all kinds of music!" 

Couldn't agree more, Pops. (More pics on the photo page.)