In addition to being a masterful musician, Armstrong was a memoirist and inveterate writer of letters, which Stricklin relied on for this look at the iconic American jazz musician. Born in New Orleans in 1901, Armstrong grew up in an area known as “the battlefield,” where he and his family earned their living in rough ways—prostitution and gambling among them. Music was his salvation. Armstrong was exposed to “spasm bands” and the evolution of ragtime to the blues to jazz, though his repertoire was considerably wider. Stricklin explores the social and economic forces that helped make jazz popular and Armstrong’s exuberant labor and innovation, which nurtured it. He tracks Armstrong through Prohibition, the Depression, both world wars, and the civil rights movements, as well as his marriages and associations with famed musicians. He recalls Armstrong’s career with bands, records, films, and travel abroad as musician and later goodwill ambassador, until the outrageous resistance to school desegregation angered him. In final chapters, Stricklin analyzes Armstrong’s musical legacy and details his recordings within the broader context of American music.