Armstrong on dope

I have known all along that Armstrong had used performance enhancing drugs but it does not worry me in the slightest. I guess the whole debate comes down to whether we believe that the experiences we have had courtesy of the top artists, sportsmen or musicians become somehow invalidated when we find out that their moments of genius were boosted by the chemicals they had ingested.

The fact that Louis is known to have used cocaine and marihuana has zero importance to me when I am listening to his “Hello Dolly” or “Mack the Knife”. It simply does not matter – Satchmo’s legacy is his trumpet solos and swinging vocals, not being a role model for primary school kids looking for a thing to do in life. The joy and inspiration he has brought into the lives of millions of people do not get devalued just because he had snorted the white powder. It is how you blow, not what you sniff, stupid.

Jazz does not care if its great performers like Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Art Pepper, Miles Davies, John Coltrane (in his early years) or Chet Baker were on dope when they played. Many others were not half as good (doped or not) so the issue is individual brilliance and creative genius, not chemistry. And this is before we even start talking about Syd Barrett, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Hendrix or Andy Warhol. They were what they were and what matters is whether we are touched by their art.

So, Louis Armstrong’s drug habits are a non-issue to me.


4 Responses to “Armstrong on dope”

  1. Jan Chamski Says:

    Your article implies that you subscribe to the widespread fallacy that feel-good drugs somehow enhance artistic performance. I beg to disagree.

  2. da-boss Says:

    If they do not then the Armstrong’s legacy is even more impressive!

  3. Jan Chamski Says:

    Would that be Louis, Lance or Neil?

  4. da-boss Says:

    Louis. For my views on steroids and EPO in sport see the “Doping in sport” posts

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