Louis Armstrong’s song “What did I do to be so Black and Blue” presented various characteristics of jazz music in the 1920s. His performance was the type of entertainment that demonstrated how black people were viewed and treated. The use of fast ragtime in the 1920s jazz music gave an emotional tinge to any jazz music. Armstrong’s jazz song had a racism theme, which he used to make white people aware of the fact that blacks were the way they were not by choice, but by nature and could not do anything about it. During that period, few people knew about racism as a vice and they could not come out to condemn it.Using the entertainment platform, Louis Armstrong tried to fight against racism (Singer, 1992). He did it with the help of the 1920s jazz style, which apart from just entertaining people, also represented biracial culture and other rebellious behaviors. All these were incorporated in Louis Armstrong’s song.
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His presentation of the song included the use of saxophone as the key instrument. During that period, a few white men enjoyed his jazz style. His freedom to express feelings of black people also showed his interpretation of how jazz music was supposed to be performed. He also showed cultural freedom and musical individuality in the song (DeVeaux, & Gary, 2009). Armstrong also interpreted his song “Black and Blue” with the help of several dance moves that represented jazz music back in the 1920s. Some of the moves included Black Bottom, the Charleston, and one step. He also used girl dancers throughout his performance to create a high profile of his song. His music changed lives of many people, and it also influenced many people’s behaviors. It was after the release of this song that the issue of racism was addressed, and several campaigns were conducted so as to eliminate it in society dominated by white people.
Furthermore, Louis Armstrong was able to interpret jazz music by using polyrhythm, blue notes, and swung notes (Meckna, 2004).
The first song which was within “Hot Chocolates” is about a certain dark lady whose husband left her for a fairly light-skinned lady. Louis Armstrong then took this context and transformed it into one which expressed strong protest against racial discrimination. It was also a marvelous jazz music piece which was quite entertaining. Louis Armstrong made various alterations to the original song within “Hot Chocolates” because he felt that the song should not be used as a way of patronizing the white audience or white people in general (Singer, 1991). He deleted some part of the first verse of the original song, that is, “couples passing two by two, while am here left dry and high, black because am black and am blue, men prefer brown and yellow fellers” (Armstrong & Brothers, 2009). He changes this part to “cold empty bed springs hurt my head, feels like no one Ned, wished I was dead, what I did to be so black and blue” (Armstrong, 2007). This changed the meaning of the original song, after which the song only made sense to people, both black and white, as a commentary on the plight of dark-skinned people. The phrase in the song “what did I do to be so black and blue” means that a person’s color of skin is not their choice.
Armstrong’s main intention of altering the song was to let society know what black people were experiencing. He was also not comfortable with the fact that the original singer tried to write the song in such a way that it would ridicule black people and the audience would laugh at them. He did this so as to add to his profits, but Armstrong felt that it was not fair at all (Brothers, 2009).
Armstrong used the rendition ‘What did I do to be so black and blue’ as a way of expressing the agony that black people have to go through in the hands of white people. There was a lot of discrimination and racism among people at that time. Black people were treated as slaves, black women were raped and molested, and even the authority did not come to their rescue in dealing with the injustice. As a black person, Louis Armstrong felt how unfairly black people were treated. That was the reason why he changed the context of the song “Hot Chocolate” because the song contained some discriminatory phrases (Eschen, 1963)
Back in those years, cases of racism were numerous, and white people felt that black people should only be used as slaves and that nothing good could come out of them. They were considered inferior humans and were not allowed to associate with white people. This has not been stopped in some states. Although a large number of campaigns have been conducted to ensure that discrimination or racism is completely stopped, this vice has not been dealt with successfully yet. This song has been staged and inculcated in skits, which has helped people to identify or realize that what black people have gone through due to racism is hurting and unfair. The rendition has helped in boosting campaigns against racism, which has happened not only in the United States of America, but also in other parts of the world (Meckna, 2004). To date, racism is still experienced, but it is only in few countries.
Louis Armstrong is an extremely effective advocate for racial equity and tolerance. He lived in the early 1920s and he was able to understand the importance of doing away with racism. He was able to see and experience what it really meant for white people to discriminate black people. Thus, he had a desire and a motive to ensure that he did everything possible in his capacity so that racism in America and other parts of the globe was put to an end.
Therefore, he decided to communicate his message through jazz music, and this became the reason why he altered the song that had been sung to discriminate women. By doing this, he tried to make white people aware of the fact that it did not feel well to be discriminated on the basis of race. This served as a way in which he set the pace for other people to join the campaign. His song became famous, and it is known not only in America, but also in other parts of the world (Singer, 1992). It was later adopted by people who took part in anti-racism campaigns.
Lois Armstrong also made it to advocate for racial tolerance and equality by the fact that he used jazz style in his music. This was the most popular and the most preferred style when it came to the music entertainment. It wooed white people to listen to it, and this was the way he started to advocate for putting an end to racism (Teachout, 2009). Since then, many citizens have seen the need to live together. People who are not selfish or prejudiced have come to accept black people as equal to them and having equal or even better capabilities, hence the need to work together and help each other.
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