Aug. 4, 2010
Throwing Away the Alarm Clock
my father always said, "early to bed and
early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy
it was lights out at 8 p.m. in our house
and we were up at dawn to the smell of
coffee, frying bacon and scrambled
my father followed this general routine
for a lifetime and died young, broke,
and, I think, not too
taking note, I rejected his advice and it
became, for me, late to bed and late
now, I'm not saying that I've conquered
the world but I've avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
and have met some strange, wonderful
one of whom
myself—someone my father
And, "Chameleons feed on light and air: Poets' food is love and fame."
Today is President Barack Obama's (books by this author) 49th birthday. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on this day in 1961, despite whatever you've heard of the contrary. He's the author of the New York Times best-selling books Dreams from My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006).
There's a new biography of President Obama by The New Yorker editor David Remnick. It's called The Bridge (2010).
On this day in 1963, the Beatles had to enter the Blackpool, England, concert hall where they were performing via a trap door on the roof. To get to that trap door, they had to climb up the scaffolding of the neighboring building. Fans had blocked all the other entrances to the concert hall.
The following year, in 1964, Louis Armstrong became the oldest performer to have a Billboard No. 1 song, knocking the Beatles from the top with his hit "Hello Dolly!" Louis Armstrong (books by this author) was 63 years old at the time. And today is his birthday: Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans in 1901.
His many hit recordings include "What a Wonderful World," "Ain't Misbehavin," "Stardust," and "Dream a Little Dream of Me."
His nickname was "Satchmo." short for "Satchel Mouth." He got the nickname because that's what his embouchure looked like. Embouchure is the technical term for the shape that a trumpet player's lips make when blowing into the instrument and the way he uses facial muscles. When Louis Armstrong played the trumpet, his mouth resembled something like a messenger bag, or a satchel bag, so he got the nickname Satchel Mouth, or Satchmo.
He loved New Orleans cooking and food in general, and he sang songs named "Cheesecake" and "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" and "Cornet Chop Suey." He also was very concerned about his weight, and he raved to his friends about how amazing his brand of laxatives were.
He helped popularize scat singing, that thing where jazz singers vocalize nonsense syllables — like "doo wop dee wa ba doobee doo" — often to the melody. His first big recording to use scat singing was "Heebie Jeebies" in 1926; he claims he dropped the papers with the lyrics, couldn't remember them, and started singing scat as a result.
He loved to write letters, he enjoyed dirty limericks, he smoked a lot of pot, and he embraced a bevy of Judeo-Christian religions. Whenever someone asked him about his religion, he said he was friends with the pope, raised Baptist in the South, and wore a Star of David around his neck.
He's the author of the memoirs Swing That Music (1936) and Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (1954).
When asked to define jazz, he said: "Man, if you have to ask what it is, you'll never know."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®