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100 Louis Armstrong Quotes on Pursuing Your Passion

2. “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”

3. “What we play is life.”

4. “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

5. “Jazz is played from the heart. You can even live by it. Always love it.”

6. “Music is life itself. What would this world be without good music? No matter what kind it is.”

7. “The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician. Things like old folks singing in the moonlight in the backyard on a hot night or something said long ago.”

8. “Seems to me it ain’t the world that’s so bad but what we’re doing to it, and all I’m saying is—see what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance. Love, baby, love. That’s the secret.”

9. “Making money ain’t nothing exciting to me.”

10. “We all do ‘do, re, mi,’ but you have got to find the other notes yourself.”

11. “There’s only two ways to sum up music—either it’s good or it’s bad. If it’s good, you don’t mess about it, you just enjoy it.”

12. “All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.”

13. “To jazz or not to jazz, there is no question!”

14. “Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine, I look right into the heart of good old New Orleans. It has given me something to live for.”

15. “Don’t do nothing halfway, else you find yourself dropping more than can be picked up.”

16. “You’ve got to be good or as bad as the devil.”

17. “I do believe that my whole success goes back to that time I was arrested as a wayward boy at the age of thirteen. Because then I had to quit running around and began to learn something. Most of all, I began to learn music.”

18. “Some of you young folks been saying to me, ‘Hey Pops, what do you mean ‘What a wonderful world?’ How about all them wars all over the place? You call them wonderful? And how about hunger and pollution? That ain’t so wonderful either.’”

19. “There is no such thing as ‘on the way out’ as long as you are still doing something interesting and good—you’re in the business because you’re breathing.”

20. “You might be able to buy a little better booze than the wino on the corner. But you get sick just like the next cat and when you die you’re just as graveyard dead as he is.”

21. “I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you.”

22. “If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it.”

23. “I’ve got the world on a string.”

24. “We don’t play slow and we don’t play fast, we play half-fast.”

25. “I never tried to prove nothing, I just wanted to give a good show.”

26. “If ya ain’t got it in ya, ya can’t blow it out.”

27. “My life has always been my music, it’s always come first, but the music ain’t worth nothing if you can’t play it in public. The main thing is to live for that audience, ’cause what you’re there for is to please the people.”

28. “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell them.”

29. “A lotta cats copy the Mona Lisa, but people still line up to see the original.”

30. “My whole life, my whole soul, my whole spirit is to blow that horn.”

31. “Never play anything the same way twice.”

32. “I was determined to play my horn against all odds, and I had to sacrifice a whole lot of pleasure to do so.”

33. “You see, pops, that’s the kind of talk that’s ruining the music. Everyone’s trying to do something new, no one is trying to learn the fundamentals first. All them young cats playing their weird chords. And what happens? No one’s working.”

34. “You have to keep up those chops. I have to warm up every day for at least an hour.”

35. “You blow who you are.”

36. “I’ve gone on with bad colds, high temperatures, and bruised chops. Sometimes you have to play when your lips are so tender, you feel there’s pins in them.”

37. “I think I had a beautiful life. I didn’t wish for anything I couldn’t get, and I got pretty near everything I wanted because I worked for it. I don’t keep anything that I can’t use right now, so everything I have I’m still enjoying it.”

38. “You know, sometimes I sit around the house and think about all the places me and Lucille have been. You name the country and we’ve just about been there.”

39. “There’s a thing I’ve dreamed of all my life, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look like it’s about to come true-to be King of the Zulu’s parade. After that, I’ll be ready to die.”

40. “I had a long-time admiration for the Jewish people. Especially with their long time of courage, taking so much abuse for so long. I was only seven years old, but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the white folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for.”

41. “I was at a little Italian trumpet player’s house, and his mother was a Countess, well they was making’ that spaghetti and we was wailin’, you know.”

42. “When the other kids started calling me nicknames, I knew everything was all right. I have a pretty big mouth, so they hit on that and began calling me Gatemouth or Satchelmouth, and that Satchelmouth has stuck to me all my life, except that now it’s been made into ‘Satchmo’—’Satchmo’ Armstrong.”

43. “We never did try to get together and to show the younger Negros such as myself, to try and even to show that he has ambitions and with just a little encouragement. I could have really done something worthwhile. But instead, we did nothing but let the young upstarts know that they were young and simple, and that was that.”

44. “The Brick House was one of the toughest joints I ever played in. Guys would drink and fight one another like circle saws. Bottles would come flying over the bandstand like crazy and there was lots of plain common shooting and cutting. But somehow all that jive didn’t faze me at all. I was so happy to have someplace to blow my horn.”

45. “When I play, maybe ‘Back o’ Town Blues,’ I’m thinking about one of the old, low-down moments when maybe your woman didn’t treat you right. That’s a hell of a moment when a woman tells you, ‘I got another mule in my stall.’”

46. “Jazz is what I play for a living.” 

47. “When I pick up that horn, the world’s behind me and I don’t concentrate.”

48. “If it sounds good, it is good.”

49. “Music is either good or bad, and it’s got to be learned. You’ve got to have balance.”

50. “I never want to be anything more than I am. What I don’t have, I don’t need.”

51. “What do I want to get famous for? What do I care about famous? The public does that. That ain’t me man. I just blew. I don’t care who I’m playing for or where I’m playing. My mind never leaves that tailgate.”

52. “I don’t want a million dollars. With a lot of musicians, money made a fool out of them. They forget about the life they love, standing on the bandstand. I’m not looking to be up on a high pedestal. I’m just appreciating what I’m doing. I think all I can do is play the way I feel.”

53. “You either have it or you don’t. You play your horn just like you sing a song or a hymn. If it’s in your heart, you express yourself to the tune.”

54. “If it hadn’t been for jazz, there wouldn’t be no rock and roll.”

55. “I am so happy at the age of 50—still blowing my little Satchmo trumpet, still enjoying the fine things in life, still love everybody and everybody still loves me and from one end of the world to the other, to me, everybody’s just one big happy family.”

56. “Very few of the men whose names have become great in the early pioneering of jazz and of swing were trained in music at all. They were born musicians, they felt their music and played by ear and memory. That was the way it was with the great Dixieland Five.”

57. “I warm up at home. I hit the stage, I’m ready, whether it’s rehearsal or anything.”

58. “Well, I tell you—the first chorus, I play the melody. The second chorus, I play the melody round the melody, and the third chorus, I routines.”

59. “I gathered that those two Big-shot Boys, Joe + Fletcher, just were afraid to let me sing, thinking maybe I’d sort of ruin their reputations with their musical public. They did not know that I had been singing all of my life. In churches, etc. I had one of the finest All Boys Quartets that ever walked the streets of New Orleans.”

60. “I got a simple rule about everybody. If you don’t treat me right—shame on you.”

61. “All them weird chords which don’t mean a thing. You got no melody to remember, and no beat to dance to.”

62. “Love is talkative passion.”

63. “I don’t let my mouth say nothin’ my head can’t stand.”

64. “You’ve got to love to be able to play.”

65. “At first it was just a misdemeanor, but then you lost the ‘mis-de’ and you just got meaner and meaner.”

66. “Give me a kiss to build a dream on and my imagination will thrive upon that kiss sweetheart, I ask no more than this a kiss to build a dream on.”

67. “Unless you know what it is I ain’t never going to be able to explain it to you.”

68. “Each man has his own music bubbling up inside him.”

69. “Not too slow, not too fast. Kind of like half-fast.”

70. “Don’t tell anyone everything you know.”

71. “When you’re dead, you’re done.”

72. “White folks still in the lead.”

73. “I don’t need words. It’s all in the phrasing.”

74. “The best I can do is stay happy.”

75. “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? When that’s where you left your heart. The moonlight on the bayou is a creole tune that fills the air. I dream about magnolias in bloom and I’m wishin’ I was there.”

76. “I don’t get involved in politics. I just blew my horn.”

77. “I’ll bet right now most of the youngsters and hot club fans who hear the name Storyville haven’t the least idea that it consisted of some of the biggest prostitutes in the world. Standing in their doorways nightly in their fine and beautiful negligees faintly calling to the boys as they passed their cribs.”

78. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell!”

79. “It makes you feel good, man, makes you forget all the bad things that happen to a Negro. It makes you feel wanted, and when you’re with another tea smoker, it makes you feel a special kinship.”

80. “If you still have to ask, shame on you.”

81. “Pops, my motto is ‘Eat good, stay healthy and don’t worry about being rich.’” 

82. “A lot of the musicians asked me if when I hit my high-Cs on the records I had a clarinet take the notes. Some thought I had invented some kind of gadget so I could play high register. They weren’t satisfied until they handed me a trumpet that they had with them and had me swing it. Then they cheered.”

83. “I had a chance to play with the best musicians that were coming through because I was pretty good myself or else they wouldn’t have tolerated me.”

84. “I like kissable lips. A woman’s lips must say, ‘Come here and kiss me, Pops.’”

85. “The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.”

86. “If you don’t understand it, don’t mess with it.”

87. “When I was young and very green, I wrote that tune, Sister Kate, and someone said that’s fine, let me publish it for you. I’ll give you 50 dollars. I didn’t know anything about papers, and business, and I sold it outright.”

88. “Red beans and ricely yours.”

89. “’Cat?’ ‘Cat’ can be anybody from the guy in the gutter to a lawyer, doctor, the biggest man to the lowest man, but if he’s in there with a good heart and enjoys the same music together, he’s a cat.”

90. “The Pope was such a fine little fella, you know.”

91. “It really puzzles me to see marijuana connected with narcotics dope and all of that stuff. It is a thousand times better than whiskey. It is an assistant and a friend.”

92. “It ain’t whatcha say, it’s the way howcha say it.”

93. “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country.”

94. “The first time I heard Jack Teagarden on the trombone, I had goose pimples all over.”

95. “I spent nine days in the Downtown Los Angeles City Jail. The judge gave me a suspended sentence and I went to work that night, wailing just like nothing happened. What struck me funny though, I laughed really loud when several movie stars came up to the bandstand while we played a dance set and told me when they heard about me getting caught with marijuana, they thought marijuana was a chick. Woo boy that really fractured me!”

96. “I’m a spade, you’re an ofay. Let’s play.”

97. “As a youngster in the little orphanage home in New Orleans, I was the bugler of the institution. When I got to be around 13 or 14 years old, they took me off the bugle and put me in the little brass band.”

98. “You can’t take it for granted. Even if we have two, three days off I still have to blow that horn a few hours to keep up the chops. I mean I’ve been playing 50 years, and that’s what I’ve been doing in order to keep in that groove there.”

99. “It’s America’s classical music—this has become our tradition—the bottom line of any country in the world is what did we contribute to the world?”

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