July 6, 1971: Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack in his sleep, a month before his 70th birthday, and 11 months after playing a famous show at the Waldorf-Astoria’s Empire Room. He was residing in Corona, Queens, New York City, at the time of his death. He was interred in Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, in Queens, New York City.
His honorary pallbearers included Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson and David Frost.
Peggy Lee sang The Lord’s Prayer at the services while Al Hibbler sang “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and Fred Robbins, a long-time friend, gave the eulogy.
Louis Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was a jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an “inventive” trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly-recognizable gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes.
He was also skilled at scat singing (vocalizing using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics).Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing, Armstrong’s influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general.
Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to “cross over”, whose skin-color was secondary to his music in an America that was severely racially divided. He rarely publicly politicized his race, often to the dismay of fellow African-Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation during the Little Rock Crisis. His artistry and personality allowed him socially acceptable access to the upper echelons of American society that were highly restricted for a black man.
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