Curiously, too, Teachout omits the entertainer’s refusal to gig at the Nixon White House in 1969. For that, turn to an earlier Armstrong biographer, the jazz critic Gary Giddins in the 1988 Satchmo, who relates how the musician truly felt about the invite: “Fuck that shit. Why didn’t they do it before? The only reason he would want me to play there now is to make some niggers happy.”
Furthermore, Teachout’s attempts to pigeonhole Armstrong as an up-by-the-bootstraps figure for the Right are painful. “The raw note of contempt is unmistakable,” the author insists, over the trumpeter’s reminiscences of the poor and black shooting dice in an alley in New Orleans, which seem to me spoken more in sorrow than in anger: “They did that in place of going to work … trying to win … gambling off the money … to feed their starving children.”
Maybe these anonymous men tried and were defeated by circumstance, but Teachout couldn’t and wouldn’t know that. The “unmistakable contempt” is entirely his projection.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
What A Wonderful World?
A contrarian take on Teachout's Louis Armstrong biography, which I will still probably read anyway. (Las Vegas Weekly)