The man famous for the songs; What a Wonderful Word, Hello Dolly, and La Vie En Rose had a great experience with human kindness despite the adversity he faced. But did you know why he wore a Star of David?
Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant throughout his whole adult life. This was in gratitude to the Jewish family who helped raise him and treated him as one of their own. They even bought him his first horn.
Who is Louis Armstrong?
Louis Armstrong was born and raised in New Orleans. After his father left, he was raised by his grandmother until he was 5 years old. He spent most of his youth in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of Storyville. The crime rate there was so bad that it was called the battlefield. New Orleans only had a few schools that would accept black kids. Armstrong attended the Fisk School for Boys.
At the age of 7, he lived with their neighbors, the Karnoffskys. They were Lithuanian Jews who immigrated to the United States. Mrs. Karnoffsky would sing him lullabies at night in Yiddish and Russian. They treated him like family, knowing about his past.
Armstrong started his career with brass bands on riverboats. During this time, his talent matured. He started reading music and became one of the first jazz musicians to have their own trumpet solos. Then, in 1922, King Oliver invited him to move to Chicago. Oliver’s band was highly influential at the time, and this truly launched his career.
He lived a luxurious life with his new career. He then started recording with Oliver for Gennett Records. By the 1950s, he became an American icon and a jazz ambassador. (Source: History)
The Karnoffskys Restored Our Faith in Humanity
Armstrong’s mother resorted to prostitution to earn money. During this time, he lived with his grandmother. He would often do odd jobs for his neighbors – the Karnoffskys. The family often treated them like their own. They gave him food and go him his first instrument.
I was only seven years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the White Folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for. They were always warm and kind to me, which was very noticeable to me — just a kid who could use a little word of kindness.Louis Armstrong
The family helped him out a lot, even if they already had many of their own problems. (Source: Accidental Talmudist)
What Happened to Louis Armstrong?
Armstrong loved performing. He passed away doing what he loved. Against the advice of his doctors, he played for a two-week engagement in 1971 at the Waldorf-Astoria. He was hospitalized at the end of the event due to a heart attack.
He was released in May of that year but resumed playing the trumpet. Unfortunately, he didn’t make his next tour as he passed away in his sleep on July 6, 1971. (Source: The New York Times)