Music Is My Life

Louis Armstrong, Autobiography, and American Jazz
Daniel Stein


Music Is My Life is the first comprehensive analysis of Louis Armstrong's autobiographical writings (including his books, essays, and letters) and their relation to his musical and visual performances. Combining approaches from autobiography theory, literary criticism, intermedia studies, cultural history, and musicology, Daniel Stein reconstructs Armstrong's performances of his life story across various media and for different audiences, complicating the monolithic and hagiographic views of the musician.

The book will appeal to academic readers with an interest in African American studies, jazz studies, musicology, and popular culture, as well as general readers interested in Armstrong's life and music, jazz, and twentieth-century entertainment. While not a biography, it provides a key to understanding Armstrong's oeuvre as well as his complicated place in American history and twentieth-century media culture.

"As the discipline now known as 'The New Jazz Studies' continues to develop, Stein's book will surely stand as an exemplary text."
—Krin Gabbard, author of Hotter than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture

"Stein's approach to Armstrong's autobiographics is inspiring, fascinating, and compelling. I really think that he has opened up new ground in the field of jazz autobiography that others will follow."
—Jon Panish, author of The Color of Jazz: Race and Representation in Postwar American Culture

Cover photograph by Dennis Stock, courtesy of Magnum Photos

Daniel Stein is Professor in North American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Siegen, Germany.

Praise / Awards

  • "...Daniel Stein's book is the first to examine Armstrong's autobiographical record carefully to see what it reveals about the man, his life, and his music. The result is a fascinating book that is likely to offer unexpected insights and information to even the best-read Armstrong researcher."
    —Robert Rawlins, Rowan University, Popular Music and Society

  • "Meticulous citations and helpful appendixes enhance the strength of this important, though complex, work. Highly recommended."
    —T. E. Buehrer, Choice
  • "The contributions of Stein’s book to the study of Louis Armstrong and his music are manifold. With a rare historical and contextual awareness, Stein illustrates the extent to which Armstrong’s autobiographical self-performances conflicted with and challenged appropriations of Armstrong by such jazz writers and critics as Horace Gerlach, Robert Goffin, Hugues Panassié, and Rudi Blesh, among others."
    —Mario Dunkel, Jazz Research News
  • "It is really gratifying to find a study of a jazz performer that recognises so comprehensively the deeper historical and cultural framework of a music that has been so often deracinated or romanticised."
    —Bruce Johnson, Popular Music
  • "Stein gives Armstrong's autobiographical performance a much more thorough, detailed analysis than has heretofore been attempted, and the resulting study shines a bright light not only on Armstrong the person but, more importantly, also on the identity of Louis Armstrong as an iconic public figure." 
    --Ken Prouty, Fontes Artis Musicae
  • "An excellent study that is recommended reading for anyone with an interest in American jazz history, autobiography and intermediality, and, of course, Louis Armstrong."
  • Named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 360 pages.
  • 10 halftones.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02850-4

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • Louis Armstrong, jazz,autobiography, music, New Orleans