Bing once said “I’m proud to acknowledge my debt to the ‘Reverend Satchelmouth’ … He is the beginning and the end of music in America”
It is impossible to overstate the influence and importance of Louis Armstrong to the development of jazz and popular music. Indeed, it is the subject of books and documentaries, not of blog entries. Such was Armstrong’s fame and incredible impact as a performer and musician, that I did find a surfeit of quotes by people much more qualified than I to add something meaningful to the dialogue about Armstrong’s legacy.
“(Armstrong was) the key creator of the mature working language of jazz. Three decades after his death and more than three-quarters of a century since his influence first began to spread, not a single musician who has mastered that language fails to make daily use, knowingly or unknowingly, of something that was invented by Louis Armstrong.” – Dan Morgenstern, Oxford Companion to Jazz
7. NAT “KING” COLE (1919-1965)
Nat “King” Cole remains one of the most beloved entertainers and recording artists of the 20th-century. He rose to fame as a jazz pianist in the 194os as the leader of the Nat “King” Cole Trio, before becoming one of the most successful singers of the 1950s and early-1960s and a cornerstone of Capitol Records roster. He died tragically from cancer at the age of 45 in 1965, but not before becoming the first black man to host a TV show and introducing a stunning string of hit songs, including “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “When I Fall in Love,” “Too Young,” “Nature Boy,” “Route 66,” “L-O-V-E,” and “Unforgettable.”
8. MEL TORMÉ (1925-1999)
Mel Tormé was a jack of many trades but a master of them all: preeminent vocalist of standards (known as “The Velvet Fog”), composer (“The Christmas Song,” a.k.a. “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”), musical arranger, actor, and author of five very well-written books.
9. JUDY GARLAND (1922-1969)
Judy Garland was a child prodigy who was performing from the time she could walk. So much has been written about Judy Garland that it is hard to separate fact from fiction. No matter what your feelings about the entertainer, one thing is certain: she meant (and to some extent, continues to mean) a great deal to many people. Though she never had the hip factor of a Sinatra, or the mystery of a Peggy Lee, Garland’s gifts were undeniable and. In terms of raw talent, Judy Garland was inarguably in the most elite group of all-time greats, an opinion shared by most all of her peers, including Mr. Crosby.
10. VICTOR BORGE (1909-2000)
Victor Borge is not well-remembered today, but the Danish comic, conductor, and pianist was a major star of radio and television. He lived a very long life and died in his 90s, after 75 years of entertaining. In addition to his musical accomplishments, he wrote several books and was a shrewd businessman. He was apparently responsible for popularizing rock Cornish game hens, a business in which he invested. Who knew?