Friday, October 4, 2013

Louis Armstrong - "Shine" (with information & lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases the 1910 song "Shine" (also known as "That's Why They Call Me Shine") as sung by Louis Armstrong.

The content of this post is presented for historical, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

The lyrics of the 1910 song "Shine" ("That's Why They Call Me Shine") are a Black man's self-affirming responses to the experiences of non-Black people calling him "Sambo", "Rastus", and "Shine". The name "Shine" probably is a referent to the blue-black shoe shine polish that was used in those days, and the opinion that some Black people are so dark that they shine in the dark.

"Shine" is the nickname of a Black man who is featured in such Toasts as "Shine & The Titantic. Click for information about the African American verbal tradition of "Toasts" & a "clean" version of that particular Toast.

Here's information about the song "Shine" from
"Shine (originally titled That's Why They Call Me Shine) is a popular song with lyrics by Cecil Mack and Tin Pan Alley songwriter Lew Brown and music by Ford Dabney. It was published in 1910 by Gotham-Attucks and used by Ada Walker in His Honor the Barber, an African-American road show.

It was later recorded by jazz and jazz influenced artists such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman and Frankie Laine, usually without the explanatory introduction. It also featured as one of the songs sung by Sam (Dooley Wilson) and the band at Rick's Cafe in the movie Casablanca. According to Perry Bradford, himself a songster and publisher, the song was written about an actual man named Shine who was with George Walker when they were badly beaten during the New York City race riot of 1900.[1]

John William Sublett (aka John W. Bubbles) animates "Shine" brilliantly in a song-and-dance number in the 1943 movie, Cabin in the Sky...

The song was performed in a film short Rhapsody in Black and Blue by Armstrong. A 1931 recording by Armstrong with his Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra is a subset of the complete lyric of the 1910 version and the expanded later version, with added scat singing and long instrumental ending:

[Instrumental opening ~35 sec.]
Oh chocolate drop, that’s me
’Cause, my hair is curly
Just because my teeth are pearly
Just because I always wear a smile
Like to dress up in the latest style
’Cause I’m glad I’m livin’
Take troubles all with a smile
Just because my color's shady
Makes no difference, baby
That’s why they call me "Shine"
[repeat words with scat and straight jazz instrumental ~2 min.]

"[Shine]... had been written in 1910 near the end of the "Coon song era", and ... as a unique comment on the black face sensibilities of that genre.
The complete lyrics of that song are found on that Wikipedia page.

Louis Armstrong - Shine (1942) (rare)

Austin Casey,Uploaded on Dec 16, 2008

Louis Armstrong from 1942 with his orchestra swingin' shine.
This video's viewer comment thread contains informative & interesting comments, including some from family members of the movie's cast or the band.

Thanks to Louis Armstrong for his musical legacy. Thanks to the song writers & the music composer and to those who are featured in this movie. Thanks also to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

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  1. Thank you so much.his ties my ongoing fascination with Louis to a fairly recent novel by William Kennedy in which "Shine" plays a significant role.

    1. Thanks, Anonymous.

      I appreciate your comment.

      What is the title of the novel you mentioned?