Remembering Lil Hardin Armstrong

“My Sweet Smell-in Man” by Lillian Hardin and Walter Melrose, registered for copyright in 1922. Call number M1356.2.H, Music Division.

Sunday February 3 gives us the opportunity to remember one of the first important songwriters in jazz, Lillian Hardin Armstrong. She was born on that day in 1898 in Memphis and may be best known as Louis Armstrong’s second wife and writer of some of his enduring classics, such as “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue,” which has been covered more than 500 times. Other notable Lil Armstrong originals include “Doin’ the Suzie Q,” “Just for a Thrill” and “Bad Boy.” She married Louis Armstrong on February 4, 1924 and helped groom him for stardom. She also appeared as pianist with Louis on his justly famous Hot Five recordings with Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds and Johnny St. Cy. In later years she led an All Girl Orchestra broadcast on NBC radio, worked with Red Allen and eventually earned a post-graduate degree at New York College of Music. In 1971 after attending Louis Armstrong’s funeral, she returned to Chicago. She died there from a heart attack before completing her autobiography.

On December 10, 2015 Jazz scholar Dan Morgenstern gave a lecture at the Library of Congress titled “Louis and Lil: A Couple Making Musical History” available here as a webcast.

Happy 95th Birthday to Max Roach

Today marks the 95th birthday of jazz drummer, bandleader and educator Max Roach (1924-2007). His papers are among the most heavily researched jazz archival collections in the Music Division revealing much about jazz and the intersection of modernism and the development of Black political consciousness in 20th-century music. And though the collection includes a draft […]

Announcing New Acquisition: The Billy Strayhorn Collection

In January of 2017, I traveled to a suburb outside of Phoenix, Arizona to meet Dr. Gregory Morris and family. Morris is the nephew of Billy Strayhorn and Executor of the Billy Strayhorn Estate. Dr. Morris, a retired educator originally from Pittsburgh, kept the collection in safe hands for nearly five decades. The papers, including […]

Lester Young’s Birthday and News of a Rare Recording

Today marks the 109th birthday of tenor saxophonist Lester Young, the first so-called modernist instrumental stylist in jazz. His playing and hip, creative use of musician’s jargon is admired for breaking from the prevailing saxophone style of Coleman Hawkins. In his classic recordings with Count Basie’s Orchestra, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman and others, he demonstrated […]

Announcing the 2018-2019 Season of Concerts from the Library of Congress

Concerts from the Library of Congress is pleased to announce the 2018-2019 season, filled with an astonishing roster of artists and speakers. Building on the world-class chamber music you love to hear in the Coolidge Auditorium—which this year includes the Emerson Quartet with David Finckel, the Brentano Quartet with Hsin-Yun Huang and the Tetzlaff-Tetzlaff-Vogt Trio, […]

Happy Birthday Abbey!

Today marks the birthday of singer, songwriter, actress, and political activist Abbey Lincoln (Anna Marie Wooldridge August 6, 1930 – August 14, 2010). One of many singers influenced by Billie Holiday, she made her breakthrough in 1956 with her first recording, Abbey Lincoln’s Affair, and her appearance in the film The Girl Can’t Help It. Though she […]

Happy Birthday Billy!

A deep bow of respect for pianist, composer, bandleader and jazz activist Billy Taylor on what would be his 97th birthday. He was born in North Carolina but grew up in Washington, D.C. and studied with Henry Grant, who taught Duke Ellington a generation before. After moving to New York Taylor began working and recording […]

Happy Birthday, Peter Ind!

British bassist Peter Ind turns 90 today, and we have fond memories of his visit to the Performing Arts Reading Room in 2009. Ind is an important jazz double bassist and record producer who studied with Tim Bell and James Merrett and became a professional musician in 1947. I was anxious to talk to him […]

Let’s Talk About the Weather

“Yes, yes, let’s talk about the weather.” – Chorus, Act I, No. 9, The Pirates of Penzance, or, the Slave of Duty It has been an unusually rainy summer here in the Mid-Atlantic (and spring, for that matter)! Let’s get through this deluge with a variety of music about rain from the Music Division’s collections. […]