For the Sam Cooke song, see Wonderful World (Sam Cooke song). For other uses, see Wonderful World (disambiguation).
"What a Wonderful World" is a pop ballad written by Bob Thiele (as "George Douglas") and George David Weiss. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released in 1967 as a single, which topped the pop charts in the United Kingdom. Thiele and Weiss were both prominent in the music world (Thiele as a producer and Weiss as a composer/performer). Armstrong's recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. The publishing for this song is controlled by Memory Lane Music Group, Carlin Music Corp. and BMG Rights Management.
The song was initially offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down. Thereafter, it was offered to Louis Armstrong. George Weiss recounts in the book Off the Record: Songwriters on Songwriting by Graham Nash that he wrote the song specifically for Louis Armstrong. Weiss was inspired by Armstrong's ability to bring people of different races together. The song was not initially a hit in the United States, where it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because ABC Records head Larry Newton did not like the song and therefore did not promote it, but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart. In the United States, the song hit No. 116 on the BillboardBubbling Under Chart. It was also the biggest-selling single of 1968 in the UK where it was among the last pop singles issued by HMV Records before becoming an exclusive classical music label. The song made Louis Armstrong the oldest male to top the UK Singles Chart. Armstrong's record was broken in 2009 when a remake of "Islands in the Stream" recorded for Comic Relief—which included the 68-year-old Tom Jones—reached number one in that chart. Tony Bennett did go on to record "What A Wonderful World" several times, as in 2003 with k.d. lang, paying homage to Bennett's friend, Armstrong.
ABC Records' European distributor EMI forced ABC to issue a What a Wonderful World album in 1968 (catalogue number ABCS-650). It did not chart in the United States, due to ABC not promoting it, but charted in the UK where it was issued by Stateside Records with catalogue number SSL 10247 and peaked on the British chart at No. 37.
The song gradually became something of a standard and reached a new level of popularity. In 1978, Armstrong's 1967 recording was featured in the closing scenes of the first series of BBC radio's cult hit, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and was repeated for BBC's 1981 TV adaptation of the series. In 1988, Armstrong's recording appeared in the film Good Morning, Vietnam (despite the film being set in 1965 — two years before it was recorded) and was re-released as a single, hitting No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1988. The single charted at number one for the fortnight ending June 27, 1988 on the Australian chart. It is also the closing song for the 1995 movie 12 Monkeys.
In 2001, rappers Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and The Alchemist released "The Forest," a song that begins with three lines of lyric adapted from "What a Wonderful World", altered to become "an invitation to get high" on marijuana. The rappers and their record company, Sony Music Entertainment, were sued by the owners of "What a Wonderful World," Abilene Music. The suit was thrown out of court after Judge Gerard E. Lynch determined that the altered lyric was indisputably a parody, transforming the uplifting original message to a new one with a darker nature.
By April 2014, Louis Armstrong's 1967 recording had sold 2,173,000 downloads in the United States after it was released digitally.
Charts and certifications
- 1967: Louis Armstrong, million-selling original version
- 1989: Roy Clark, on his album of the same name (peaked at No. 73 on the BillboardHot Country Singles chart)
- 1992: Nick Cave, single sung with Shane MacGowan; in 2005 was also published on the album B-Sides & Rarities
- 1993: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Hawaiianukulele version (medley with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") on the album Facing Future (sold over 2.5 million copies in the U.S. and Canada alone)
- 1999: Anne Murray, on her platinum release of the same name, which also spawned a book and video (the album reached No. 1 on the US CCM chart, No. 4 on the US Country chart, and No. 38 on the top 200)
- 2002: Joey Ramone's posthumous version was used for the ending credits of Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine.
- 2002: Da Vinci's Notebook ended their album Brontosaurus with an a cappella version.
- 2003: Sarah Brightman's Harem album
- 2004: Céline Dion recorded the song for her album Miracle.
- 2004: Rod Stewart recorded a version of the song with Stevie Wonder for Stewart's album Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III (released in the United States as the lead single from the album and by early 2005 reached No. 13 on the BillboardAdult Contemporary chart).
- 2007: Foxygen covered the song on their self-produced first album Jurrassic Exxplosion Phillipic.
- 2007: Katie Melua, singing with Eva Cassidy's version to raise money for the Red Cross (reached No. 1 in the UK chart in December 2007)
- 2008: Ministry, along with other cover songs on their album Cover Up
- 2009: The Clarks' version was recorded for their album Restless Days. This version was also featured on The Simpsons's Season 27 premiere, Every Man's Dream. It is also used after every Home win for the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
- 2010: Ziggy Marley's version on The Disney Reggae Club
- 2012: Pat Byrne reached No. 3 in the Irish Singles Chart after appearing on The Voice of Ireland.
- 2012: Music charity Playing For Change recorded this song featuring Grandpa Elliott.
- 2015: Tiago Iorc's version was recorded to be used as the opening theme of the Brazilian telenovelaSete Vidas.
- 2013: Renée Geyer on her album Swing (2013)
- 2016: Tally Koren's version was recorded to be used in her album A Love Song for You.
Appearances in film and television
|The OA||Champion||Sharon Van Etten & Juggernaut Kid||2016||1|
|MythBusters||The Reunion Special||Louis Armstrong||2016||1|
|Childhood's End||#1.1||Joseph William Morgan||2015|
|The Simpsons||Every Man's Dream||The Clarks||2015||1|
|Strictly Come Dancing||Week 9 Results||Louis Armstrong||2014||1|
|Inspector George Gently||The Lost Child||Louis Armstrong||2012||1|
|The Mentalist||Blinking Red Light||Louis Armstrong||2011||1|
|An Idiot Abroad||Karl Comes Home||Louis Armstrong||2010||1|
|So You Think You Can Dance (Canada)||Top 8 Perform||Louis Armstrong||2009||1|
|The Simpsons||The Good, the Sad and the Drugly||Louis Armstrong||2009||1|
|20 to 1||Greatest Songs of All Time||Louis Armstrong||2006||1|
|Life on Mars||#1.6||Louis Armstrong||2006||1|
|House, MD||DNR||Louis Armstrong||2005||1|
|Hinter Gittern||Fahrte aufgenommen||Louis Armstrong||2004||1|
|Lust & Suhne||Louis Armstrong||2001||1|
|Hahn im Korb||Louis Armstrong||1999||1|
|Die Lugners||#1.9||Louis Armstrong||2003||1|
|Dawson's Creek||Hopeless||Louis Armstrong||2001||1|
|Gilmore Girls||Rory's Birthday Parties||Louis Armstrong||2000||1|
|The King of Queens||Head First||Louis Armstrong||1998||1|
|Cybill||Cybill Discovers the Meaning of Life||Louis Armstrong||1995||1|
|Florida Lady||Lauf dem Leben nicht davon||Louis Armstrong||1994||1|
|Twin Peaks||#2.7||Louis Armstrong||1990||1|
|The Green Man||Louis Armstrong||1990||1|
|Moonlighting||A Womb with a View||Louis Armstrong||1988||1|
|The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy||#1.6||Louis Armstrong||1981||1|
|The Muppet Show||Don Knotts (#2.1)||Rowlf (Jim Henson)||1977||2|
- Internet Movie Database
- Jim Henson's Red Book
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What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
March 21, 2010
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Many methods are used to help a song stand the test of time. If the title is repeated throughout the song, people remember it a lot easier. Having deep, touching, yet understandable meaning and an accompanying video clip that is memorable contribute to helping a song stand the test of time also. In this essay, I will be analyzing the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. It was written in 1968 during the time of the Vietnam War. Performed in the genre of jazz, it was writing and composed to try and bring hope to the millions of victims suffering the effects of the war like the loss of the many loved fathers, sons and husbands and the “half cast” children who were sent away from their mothers to a foreign land with foreign people.
“What a Wonderful World” is not only the song title but the chorus too. This line is repeated four times throughout the song to emphasize the fact that even though there is much hatred and violence within the world, it is still beautiful and there is always the chance for us to stop the pain and make life peaceful again. It’s telling us to always hope for the best because it’s not an impossible dream. “I See Trees of Green, Red Roses too” is the first line of the song, telling us straight away that there is always a chance for improvement and a chance to grow. I believe that this is the opening line because it immediately shows us that the song will be focusing on the happier side of life instead of the turmoil and that it’s better to be positive rather than negative. The line “The Bright Blessed Day, the Dark Sacred Night” was carefully worded. With use of specific words like blessed and sacred, it is presented that it’s quite a safe surrounding and that we’re being looked after. Using these words instead of more negative words like black gives the song a more soothing feel to it and relaxes people who listen.
“The Colours of the Rainbow, so Pretty in the Sky” can be taken in many different meanings. The most recognised and shared view would be that the rainbow is the show that the storm is over and clearer, easier times are ahead. In religious views, the rainbow is the promise from God to his people that he will never drown them all again, being a sign of hope to all. The reason I believe that the line “They’re really saying I Love You” was written into the song is because people meet and greet each other with happy hearts every day, and though they don’t always say it, they express that they love each other in many ways. “They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know” is expressing that overtime, more and more knowledge is acquired when a new person is put in charge and the more knowledge gained on higher up levels, the more knowledge is passed down to younger people and though Louis Armstrong is older than children, by the time they are his age, they will have had the opportunity to learn more than he has.
“What a Wonderful World” is a song containing six instruments: the violin, the drum, the flute, the double bass, the trumpet, and the harpsi chord. All of these except the flute are played throughout the song. The flute is played at a specific time though. During the third verse of the song the flute is introduced. It is played parallel to “The colours of the rainbow so pretty in the sky” to enliven the line and is then played through the rest of the verse to put it on a happier note than the rest of the song. Alongside “And I think to myself what a wonderful world” the music goes noticeably higher. The reason is to show that the world really is a wonderful, happy place despite the disaster. The line “I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do” is accompanied by ooh ahh’s to emphasize the happy, hopeful feeling that the song as a whole is trying to tell. At the time of the original producing of the song the Vietnam War was happening, hence the inspiration for the song. The Vietnam War was a very eventful time in history, causing many deaths of not only soldiers but many innocents too. Many husbands, fathers and sons didn’t return from the war but many families and homes were completely destroyed. Many Vietnamese women also gave birth to children fathered by the soldiers. These children were considered half-casts and sent away to places like America because they were not welcomed by Vietnamese society. Some of the mothers of these children became very depressed and some went so far as to commit suicide. The effects of the war are still around today, just not on as such a major scale but the victims of the war will never forget those lost.
“What a Wonderful World” is one of the many songs that have stood the test of time. Through its music and lyrics it tells us that when it seems all is lost and that despair is in our hearts, there is always a hope for the future. Though it was written during a time of terrible turmoil, it promised us a hope for a better future and showed us that we can always come out on top. Louis Armstrong was a black American who faced prejudice and bitterness towards him and yet still felt enough joy and hope within himself to produce such a loving, touching song. The song spoke to many people of different races and religions. It told us that no matter what you look like or who you are, things can always get better no matter how bad they seem.