Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) is widely considered one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. His trumpet playing and distinctive vocals set him apart from his peers. Armstrong began playing music professionally as a teenager, and his musical career lasted over 50 years. He gained renown as a soloist and band leader, but he wasn't above the occasional duet, often with some of the best in the business. Here are eight of his greats.
1. Billie Holiday: "New Orleans"
Armstrong plays himself in the 1947 movie musical New Orleans, so there was no need to research his role. In fact, being a New Orleans native, he was perfect for the part. His co-star is Billie Holiday, in the only feature film she ever made.
Holiday plays Endie, a rich woman's maid who introduces the woman’s daughter, an aspiring singer, to the Storyville music scene. Although the love story of Louis and Endie is just a sub-plot, Armstrong and Holiday's musical numbers are the only things that make the movie worth watching. Here they are performing the title song from the film.
2. Ella Fitzgerald: "Summertime"
In the 1950s, Louis Armstrong made three record albums with Ella Fitzgerald for Verve Records. All have become classics. The first two, Ella and Louis and Ella and Louis Again, are pop albums. The third is a selection of songs, including "Summertime," from the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. The Guinness World Records website awarded "Summertime" the title of the Most Recorded song at 67,591 versions as of June 2017. Armstrong and Fitzgerald's recording is one of the best.
3. Duke Ellington: "It Don't Mean a Thing"
In 1961, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington recorded The Complete Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington Sessions, later known as The Great Summit. It was the only time the two jazz legends put down tracks together in a recording studio. Ellington's composition "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" is one of the 17 songs.
4. Bing Crosby: "Now You Has Jazz"
In the 1956 film High Society, a musical remake of the 1940 hit movie The Philadelphia Story, Louis Armstrong once again plays himself. In this scene from the film, Armstrong and Bing Crosby, in the role of C.K. Dexter-Haven, give some society swells a musical lesson in jazz with the Cole Porter tune "Now You Has Jazz."
5. Johnny Cash: "Blue Yodel No. 9"
Country and western singer Johnny Cash is probably one of the last people you'd expect to see perform a duet with Louis Armstrong, but "Blue Yodel #9" is precisely that. The song, also known as "Standing on the Corner," was written by "the Father of Country Music" Jimmie Rodgers. Rodgers recorded it in 1930 with an uncredited Armstrong on trumpet. Armstrong recreated his performance as a guest on Cash's television series The Johnny Cash Show, with Cash standing in for Rodgers on vocals.
6. Frank Sinatra: "The Birth of the Blues"
Frank Sinatra appeared alongside Louis Armstrong on The Edsel Show television special on October 13, 1957. Bing Crosby hosted the special, and he and Armstrong performed "Now You Has Jazz" as they had in High Society, which had been released the previous year. Sinatra, another star of the film, and Armstrong provide a second musical lesson for the viewing audience in their duet of "The Birth of the Blues."
7. Barbra Streisand: "Hello Dolly"
The biggest hit single of Louis Armstrong's career was the title song from the Broadway musical Hello, Dolly! He recorded it in 1964, the year the show debuted on Broadway. On May 9th of that year, Armstrong's recording of "Hello, Dolly!" hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, ending The Beatles' 14-week run in the top spot. Armstrong, at 62, became the oldest person ever to have a number one song, a record he holds to this day.
8. Danny Kaye: "When the Saints Go Marching In"
Louis Armstrong appeared in over 25 feature films and several short subjects. In at least 18 of them, he played himself. In The Five Pennies, this is especially fitting since the film is based on the life of jazz cornet player and bandleader Loring Red Nichols, one of Armstrong's contemporaries.
In the film, Danny Kaye as Nichols teams up with Armstrong for a rendition of the spiritual "When the Saints Go Marching In." Armstrong previously popularized the song with his 1938 recording, making it a jazz standard.
About the Creator
Denise Shelton writes on a variety of topics and in several different genres. Frequent subjects include history, politics, and opinion. She gleefully writes poetry The New Yorker wouldn't dare publish.