NEW YORK – Born Louis Daniel, jazz great Louis Armstrong would later be nicknamed "Satchmo" and "Pops." But on Saturday, the 100th anniversary of his birth, many fans simply call him one of the greatest musicians of the last century.
Thanks to his music — like the classic tune "What a Wonderful World" — Armstrong's legacy lives on, and his songs continue to make our world a wonderful one.
"The only question is the magnitude of his genius, not whether he was a genius," said jazz musician and author Wynton Marsalis. "He transformed the world of music."
Although Armstrong died 30 years ago, fans still make pilgrimages to his New York City house — which will soon be converted into a museum.
"He thought nothing of talking through the window, ringing my bell," said Selma Heraldo, a neighbor of Armstrong's. "My mother loved to cook, so he was forever asking my mother what she was cooking."
Just about everything of value from the Armstrong residence is now in the archives of New York's Queens College — where visitors can see some of his most prized possessions and listen to audio tapes he recorded, like a rehearsal of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that he never commercially released.
To honor the jazz king’s 100th birthday Friday, the jazz capital of New Orleans is renaming the city's airport in his honor. Meanwhile, Armstrong die-hards in New York marked the occasion with a party and reunion with their idol's fellow band members.
"If anybody ever told him that one day there would be airports, parks, schools, stadiums, streets named after him around the world, he would look at you like you were crazy," said Arvell Shaw, who played bass with Armstrong.
Half a century ago, when Louis Armstrong turned 50, the music world called him "the end and the beginning."
On this 100th birthday he never lived to see, he still is.