Song of the Day: “Black and Blue”

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Given the anarchic, traumatic, and deeply worrying events of recent months, some might begin to lose hope. However, music—and especially jazz, the most particularly American music—never seems to lose its power to soothe and calm us. Louis Armstrong, in a special song that might sound deceptively typical to the hasty listener, made a groundbreaking statement on race relations in his recording of the 1929 Fats Waller tune, “Black and Blue.” Rather than making a misguided apology for his own racial identity, as some have interpreted it, Armstrong’s incomparable dignity transforms the bluesy song into an ageless lament that rivals monumental recordings like Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit.” Maybe we are all feeling a little black and blue today. Armstrong tells us, in his own unique and iconic way, that the hard work of healing lies ahead.


Read more of Max Gray at Big City Sasquatch or follow him on Twitter @City_Sasquatch. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Encounters, Mount Hope, Conte, tNY.press, and English Kills Review. He co-hosts the etymology podcast Words For Dinner and is a graduate of the Rutgers-Newark MFA program. More from this author →