Today is the seventh day of Black History Month. Over the course of the month, I’ll spend some time paying tribute to Black artists across a wide and diverse array of genres and styles. My hope is that these posts should serve as an important reminder that the Black experience is the American experience, that Black culture is American culture — and importantly, Black lives and Black art matter. You can’t love Black art and Black artists without giving a shit about Black people.
This month won’t be a comprehensive study of Black music. It’ll be more idiosyncratic because — well, JOVM after all. Now, if you’ve been following this site, you may recall that so far I’ve paid tribute to:
- Chaka Khan
- Reverend Al Green
- The Whispers
- Rick James
- Aretha Franklin
- Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- Chuck Berry
- Donna Summer
- Janet Jackson
- The Isley Brothers
- James Brown
- Whitney Houston
- Bob Marley (whose birthday was also on Sunday)
- Syl Johnson, who we lost last night at 85
Today, I have to pay a special tribute to Louis Armstrong. Armstrong was one of the first Black artists to achieve mainstream, crossover success both nationally and internationally. And by the time he died in 1971, it was obvious that his influence on just about every style and genre of music was towering and undeniable.
As a native Corona, Queens boy, Louis has a special place in my heart. He spent a good portion of his life in a house, not far from my apartment. The house is now a museum. A branch of the Queens Library system, not far from his house has since been named after him. And he’s buried in nearby Flushing Cemetery. We’ve adopted the poor orphan from New Orleans, who became the richest, most beloved man in the entire world, as one of our own.