The 20 Best Louis Armstrong Quotes

Born on August 4, 1901, Louis Armstrong’s legacy lives on more than 120 years later. Known as Satchmo, the trumpet-playing icon, who lived until July 6, 1971, is known for his songs like “What a Wonderful World,” “When You’re Smiling” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

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Today, the late frontman has earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as well as other accolades. With an instantly recognizable voice, Armstrong is respected and beloved today. But while many of the songs remain part of the American canon, one might wonder what kind of person Armstrong was outside of his music. What were his thoughts on his craft and the world around him?

[RELATED: Behind The Song: Louis Armstrong, “What A Wonderful World”

Without further ado, here are the 20 best Louis Armstrong quotes.

1. “There is two kinds of music, the good, and the bad. I play the good kind.”

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

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

4. “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 enjoy the same music together, he’s a cat.”

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

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

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

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

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

10. “Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there’s no more music in them.”

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

12. “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.”

13. “I never want to be anything more than I am; what I don’t have, I don’t need.”

14. “What we play is life.”

15. “You blows who you is.”

16. “The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician.”

17. “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 tell you, ‘I got another mule in my stall.'”

18. “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.”

19. “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.”

20. “When this ugly gangster told Joe Glaser that he must take the name of Armstrong down, off of the marquee, and it was an ‘order from Al Capone,’ Mr. Glaser looked this cat straight in the face and told him these words: ‘I think that Louis Armstrong is the world’s greatest, and this is my place, and I defy anybody to take his name down from there.'”

Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

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