Louis Armstrong's 10 best songs ever, ranked

13 June 2022, 16:45

Louis Armstrong in 1967
Louis Armstrong in 1967. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Louis Armstrong was one of the all-time greatest musicians, let alone jazz stars.

He was a highly-skilled trumpeter and singer, and remains one of the most influential people in jazz and music history.

Louis Armstrong's career spanned five decades, from the roaring 20s to James Bond in the late 1960s.

Known for his distinctive rich and gravelly voice as well as his incredible trumpet playing, he was one of the most famous people of the 20th century.

Here are just a handful of his greatest songs:

  1. Hello, Dolly!

    This was the title song from the 1964 musical of the same name, and Louis later appeared in the 1969 film version opposite Barbra Streisand.

    Louis' recording was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.

  2. 'Georgia on My Mind'

    Ray Charles may have recorded the most famous version of this jazz standard, but Louis also made a beautiful cut.

    Written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, it was later made the official song of the state of Georgia in 1979.

  3. La vie en rose

    Obviously, Edith Piaf's version of this stunning French song is the standard, but several American stars had hits with it.

    In 1950 alone, there were hits for Tony Martin, Paul Weston, Bing Crosby, Ralph Flanagan, Victor Young, Dean Martin, and of course, Louis Armstrong.

  4. 'Dream a Little Dream of Me'

    First written in 1931, this song later became synonymous with Mamas and the Papas singer Cass Elliott.

    Louis was one of the first artists to record it, and his version is also incredibly sweet and easy.

  5. St. James Infirmary Blues

    Also known as 'Gambler's Blues', Louis first made the song famous in his haunting 1928 record. 1928!

    He later recorded it on various occasions, and it has since been covered by the likes of The Doors, The White Stripes and Hugh Laurie.

  6. 'When the Saints Go Marching In'

    A song that originated as a hymn in the 1890s, Louis totally transformed it into a jazz classic.

    It has since been covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to Dolly Parton.

  7. Summertime (with Ella Fitzgerald)

    This George Gershwin standard has been performed by pretty much every jazz star over the years.

    One of which was this beautiful version by Louis, alongside the stunning voice of Ella Fitzgerald.

  8. 'Mack the Knife'

    Three years before Bobby Darin scored a huge jazz hit around the world with this song, Louis Armstrong had the first record with it.

    The song was composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or The Threepenny Opera, in 1928.

    It told the tale of the deadly Mackie Messer, a character based on the highwayman Macheath in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (who was in turn based on the historical thief Jack Sheppard). English lyrics were then added by Gifford Cochran and Jerrold Krimsky in 1933.

  9. 'We Have All the Time in the World'

    Composed by John Barry with lyrics by Hal David, this was the love theme from the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service - and it returned for Daniel Craig's final outing in No Time to Die.

    The song's title is taken from Bond's final words in both the novel and the film, spoken after his wife's death. Barry chose Armstrong because he felt he could "deliver the title line with irony".

    It became a Top 10 hit in the UK in 1994, after its use in a Guinness advert.

  10. 'What a Wonderful World'

    This beautiful classic was first offered to Tony Bennett, but he amazingly turned it down.

    Co-writer George David Weiss later said he always hoped Louis would perform it, as he was inspired by Armstrong's ability to bring people of different races together.

    It wasn't initially a hit in the United States, selling fewer than 1,000 copies, but was a huge success in the UK, where Louis became the oldest ever star to have a number one single, aged 66.