a.d. winans | born in new orleans | poem for louis armstrong

Born in New Orleans

Poem for Louis Armstrong

Grew up in segregated America
First soloist who took jazz to new heights
Who blew notes deep from the gut

Notes that soared high as an eagle
Jazz angel who defined the word genius

Duke Ellington knew it
Billie Holiday knew it
All of jazz knew it

In later years cranky about
Be-Bop, but as Dizzy Gillespie said
“He can say whatever he wants because
Louie is Pops and Pops is tops.”

First black man to speak on the radio
In the deep South
First pop artist to have
A top ten hit (Mack the Knife)
With virtually no air time
DJ’s saying it was too violent
But who played it regularly
When white singer Bobby Darin
Three years later made it
A smash hit

Subjected to racism
At home
In restaurants and hotels
Yet invited by the State Department
To be their Goodwill Ambassador
Who had the courage to tell them
To go to hell
This in the era of Jim Crow

An avid baseball fan
Who lived near Shea Stadium
And who frequented
The Mets ball games
Admitting to friends
He longed to sing
The National Anthem there
Too proud to ask
And baseball brass
To dumb to ask him
Who now plays
To a higher audience
Blows his horn
With the angels
Trumpet in one hand
His long white
Silk handkerchief in the other
Must bring a smile to God’s face

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