If you are like me, you sometimes wonder whether you should have been born earlier because of your taste in music. Okay, so there's lots of reasons NOT to have been born earlier. But if I look at the contents of my iPod, I see a healthy dose of Beatles, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Aretha Franklin, Simon & Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, and other recording artists whose fame peaked before I was born or when I was a little girl.
One of those singers is Louis Armstrong. In fact, I have a special fondness for his most famous song: "What a Wonderful World." We used that for our first dance at our wedding and sang it to Christopher when he was in the NICU. Then my sister and her husband also used it for their first dance, and to this day, I continue to sing it nightly to my boys when I put them to bed.
So I took special interest in this article in the New York Times, about Armstrong's reaction to the Little Rock high school integration efforts and his thoughts on race in America in general. What an awkward place he and others (Ray Charles, Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, etc.) must have been in--entertaining those white folks who were responsible for black folks' oppression. Staying in hotels and singing in clubs where black people were barred from entrance. Exalted for their musical skills yet despised for their race. And one day, Armstrong had finally had enough and couldn't keep himself quiet any longer.