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What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

Album: What A Wonderful WorldReleased: 1968Charted:
32
1
  • This was written by Bob Thiele and George Weiss. Thiele was a producer for ABC records, and Weiss was a songwriter who helped create the hit version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." The song is about appreciating the beauty of our surroundings.
  • Armstrong recorded this for scale, accepting only $250 to make sure the orchestra got paid.
  • This is the song most associated with Louis Armstrong, but it does not represent the body of his work, which consists mostly of Jazz.
  • In 1988, this was re-released in the US after it was used in the Robin Williams movie Good Morning, Vietnam. It charted at #32. (thanks, Alan - S Brunswick, NJ)
  • The boss of ABC Records hated this and did not promote it until it became a hit in England.
  • This was the last song publicly performed by Eva Cassidy, who died of cancer about 6 weeks later in 1996. Cassidy became known after her death when a BBC radio DJ started playing songs from her album Songbird. The album gained popularity and went to #1 in the UK. She required medication to get on stage the last time. (thanks, Norm - Grand Forks, ND)
  • Joey Ramone covered this on his 2002 album, Don't Worry About Me, which was released almost a year after his death. Ramone occasionally played this live long before he recorded it. It expressed his optimistic view of the world, even as he was faced with death.
  • In Britain, this was the biggest-selling single of 1968. (thanks, Jerro - New Alexandria, PA)
  • For the 2002 album When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You'd Hear, Country music star Roy Clark recorded this song. Cevin Soling, who was executive producer on the album, had The Oak Ridge Boys record "Carry On Wayward Son" for the project, and their manager Jim Halsey suggested Clark. Says Soling: "Johnny Cash was going to be on the record. And I was supposed to go to Jamaica to work with him. And that was one of the sad phone calls that I got... he had borrowed Elizabeth Barrett Browning's house there and was building a studio, so I was waiting for construction of the studio. He was going to do the Zombies' 'Time Of The Season,' and then shortly before I was supposed to go out there I got a call that he was too sick. Then I talked to Jim Halsey about it, and he goes, 'Well, if you're looking for that I can get Roy Clark.' So that was how the Roy Clark track came together. It was just thrown at me. Any track is so much work, it was nice to have something that just sort of fell in my lap. I mean, I was doing all the contract negotiations, I was doing the producing, the contracts, the arranging... everything. Soup to nuts was all me in making it happen. So for a track to fall in my lap was a godsend at that point." (Check out our interview with Cevin Soling.)
  • Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole recorded this in a medley with "Over The Rainbow" for his 1993 album Facing Forward. This version was used in the films Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, and 50 First Dates, as well as on the television show ER. (thanks, Evan - Newport Beach, CA)
  • In 2007 a cover by Katie Meluia and Eva Cassidy was a #1 in the UK. It was an unusual duet with Meluia's vocals being spliced with those of the late Eva Cassidy. A charity single for the Red Cross, the single was only available in Tesco stores, so it was a surprise this version of "What A Wonderful World" outsold the competition in the singles chart.

    With the success of this cover, Eva Cassidy became the 13th act to have a posthumous UK chart-topper. No other artist has had a larger gap between passing away and their debut posthumous UK #1, Cassidy having died on November 2, 1996, 11 years and one month ago before achieving peak position.
  • This was a #11 hit in the UK in 2001 when Cliff Richard released it in a medley with "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." Co-incidentally Eva Cassidy's biggest hit in the UK before this single had been her take on "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," which peaked at #42.
  • The 66-year-old Armstrong became the oldest act to top the UK charts when this reached #1. Four years previously Satchmo had become the oldest artist to record a US #1 when "Hello, Dolly!" hit the top spot. Armstrong's record was broken in 2009 when the 68-years-and 9 months-old Tom Jones was one of the artists on the Comic Relief cover of "Islands in the Stream."
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Comments: 47

You ain't heard nothing yet. When you visit the Louis Armstrong house museum in Corona, Queens and take the tour, the first thing you hear is a tape of Louis, talking about his feelings about the song. After you hear that, you may not be comparing any other version. 'Take the N train and walk through the neighborhood' from the station. It is a must.David - Fairfax Ca
Ya know...as you see all the bad news out there on TV, as you hear of all the war and strife and crime and unrest on the news....how cleansing and refreshing it is to hear this song, to put your mind back into proper perspective....It takes your mind back to a safe, warm place, a place where everyone gets along, where there is peace..... This song has always been an "emotional oasis" for me, when events of the day get me feeling sad. Louie Armstrong's almost grandfatherly tone and gentleness comes through to soothe your frayed emotions, reminding you what a truly wonderful and beautiful place this world can be, if we'd all just "shake hands...sayin' 'How Do Ya Do..." to really say to each other, "I Love You"....what a healing and ENNOBLING message his song brings! Wish we'd have more music like this today....Bruce - San Jose, Ca
The late hall of fame baseball player Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins used to sing this song to his peers when they'd gather at the annual induction ceremony. From our Minneapolis newspaper StarTribune: "When Kirby Puckett was alive, entertainment wasn't a problem. With the Hall of Famers gathered in the Hawkeye Grill in the Otesaga Hotel for induction weekend, Puckett would grab the microphone and imitate Louis Armstrong, singing What a Wonderful World. 'Seriously, for those of you who don't know, Kirby did that song as well as anybody has ever done it,' Ozzie Smith said Friday in Cooperstown. 'He just had it. Like Satchmo.'"Dj - Minneapolis, Mn
This song is sang by the ventriloquist Terry Fator as an encore for his las vegas shows with Winston the impersonating turtle as a duetLane - Seymour, Tn
I don't know about "Over the Rainbow" - this song has always reminded me of a slow version of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."Edward - Henderson, Nv
This song is just beautiful...<3Megan - Stevenson, Al
"What a Wonderful World " - a song played on the radio when Bruce Willis's character kidnaps Madeleine Stowe's character the 1995 movie Twelve Monkeys...classic!Kerry - Broomfield, Co
does anyone know where i can get a hold of a danish rendtion - named 'dejlig dag' of this song? thanks Rose adelaide australiaRose - Adelaide, Australia
Ok the Song Fallacies have it wrong. What a Wonderful World was featured in Good Morning Vietnam, not Sleepless in Seattle (which features "A Kiss to Build a Dream On")Carrie - Houston, Tx
Anyone heard the cover by Katie Melua and Eva Cassidy? Great cover... A bit slower than Armstrongs original, but still with the same moodBudoshi - Sandnessjøen, Norway
Every time I hear this song it makes me want to cry. When I had my baby boy by C-Section in 2005, this song was playing in the surgery room. This song will always have a very important place in my heart for ever and ever amen!Lodainer - Dorchester, Tx
i'm so tired of comments that bring race into every thing. armstrongs version is great because it's great. not because he's black or white.Mary - Motown, Ms
This song's slow tempo seems to emphasize the idea that in order to recognize all the good that is around us, we have to slow down & notice it. As Satchmo sings each verse, the listener has time to visualize each line, and can stop and think, oh, yeah, it IS a wonderful world. I agree with Jude's comment: once Satch wraps a song in that warm, gravelly bass, it belongs to him. The voice and perspective of this 66-year-old black man gives the song the depth to touch our souls. If someone like Armstrong can bring such believeablity to these words after growing up in the world he did (see Marge & Kirk's comments); then there truly must be value in acknowledging the beauty around us. The Hawaiian version is much softer & plinkier sounding. It seems to be coming from the viewpoint of growing up in the beautiful Hawaiian environment, and that's a different perspective altogether. I don't care for it as much. I didn't see the Columbine movie, but I think the use of the song in the scenes described is too cynical and unnecessary. We have to be able to see & feel & touch the beauty of our world if we are to overcome the tragedies such as Columbine.Camille - Toronto, Oh
This song used to make my brother cry when he was like two!Elanor - Liverpool, United Kingdom
Who has not heard Satchmo's trademark froggy voice on this beautiful piece and not broken into a smile?
It really is something that he managed to get a #1 at such an advanced age.
Oldpink - New Castle, In
this song never fails to make me smile. having a bad day? pop this sucker on and i can bet you will feel at least a little better.Josh - Tucson, Az
It's a wonderful, wonderful world. and all the praises and thanks be to its Great Creater, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,Lord of all that exists and none has the right to be worshipped but He, the Ever Living, the One who sustains and protects all that exists ( Allah ).Ali - Tripoli, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
I can't believe people haven't mentioned that Michael Buble also recorded this song... He even matches Louis's vocals at the end of the song with the vocal vibrations. Amazint!Katrina - Pullman, Wa
Unless I hear that trademark Louis uber-bass, it's not this song! (nobody else can do it justice!)Cyberpope - Richmond, Canada
Definitely, one of the finest songs ever when sung by Mr. Armstrong. It is right up there with anything from the top classical composers.

This song matches the singer, music and lyrics absolutely perfectly. If the aliens did show up we should have them listen to this just for them to learn what music from humans can be. It would be very hard to imagine how anyone in the world would not get what this song is about and realize how great of a job Mr. Armstrong did. No matter what type of music you prefer it still should be easy to spot this as one of the best performances ever.

It has no equal.
Craig - Meadville, Pa
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version with Over the Rainbow is the best. Otherwise this is not really a favorite of mine. Satchmo has so much more then this song and it is terrible that people remember him because of this.Lisa - Long Island, Ny
Hmmm...I'm kinda disappointed that Satchmo didn't write this, and also that I bet most people don't know who wrote it. Still a...well, you know, an adjective that doesn't exist, song. I'm a fan of rock, r/b etc., but this song still means as much to me as any song there is. For this one I can't say congrats Satchmo, but CONGRATS, BOB THIELE.Josh - Toronto
I meant to say unfortunately never run out of in my previous comment.Kirk - Cary, Nc
I have an emotional connection with this song like many of the other people who have posted. As idealistic as it might sound, if we could all aspire to appreciate the world, and different people in it and sew acceptance and love, I think this would be a more wonderful world. However, there are many things rooted in conflict and evil, which we will unfortunately run out of.

I am always amazed to think about Satchmo recording this song in one of the most turbulent years of the 60's...1968. Race Riots, two prominent men who stood for civil rights assassinated, Vietnam protests raging, the civil rights movement marching on, and here is a black man from the deep south singing such a poignnant, simple, beautiful song. It's like the daisy being inserted into the gun barrel.
Kirk - Cary, Nc
I will say that Louis is one of my favorite male artists of all time. Such a wonderful voice and talent. I will also say that Joey Ramone's cover is probably my favorite cover of any song I've heard.Nicole - N/a, Wi
Louis Armstrong remains the oldest person to have a number one hit single in the UK.Mark - London, England
yeah, will, mcallen , TX, once you see "Bowling For Columbine" you will never listen to this song in the same way!Mark - Austin, Tx
This song brings peace to me every time I hear it. This song along with "Some were over the rainbow" have to be the best songs ever recorded.Donna - Round Rock, Tx
My favorite lyric in the song is, "The colors of a rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by." I think it's a poignant statement, especially being sung by a black man who lived during an intolerant era. I love it because it seems so hopeful, at least to me.Marge - Mechanicsville, Md
my cousin played this at her wedding.i loved itCaitlin - Upper Township, Nj
Louis Armstrong grew up in poverty in a rough neighborhood in New Orleans. His father left his family when he was an infant and his mother abandoned him soon afterward. He also lived in a time when being black meant you were a second class citizen. Yet, all this makes the song more meaningful.Eduardo - Tucson, Az
When I hear this song I imagine that the singer is being in a higher dimension and he is watching our world. Everything is important and all the details wich normally we see, tells something profound and trascendental. The bass voice of Louis Armstrong enfatize this main character of this beutiful song.Rodris - Gdl, Mexico
I have the song on my laptop, and regularly play it at very very high volumes in my dormitory at school. Really a song to brighten up the A-Levels!Rhiannon - Rhayader, Wales
Wow. Come to think of it, it really is quite a wonderful world.Ace - Madrid, Spain
Thankyou Charles, for putting a smile on my face with you rcomment.

Althout, the reason I think this song makes tears come to our eyes, is because it speaks of all the good things this world has, but reminds us, how hard they can be to get. It's the greif in Armstrong's voice alone. And that my friends, is pure Jazz.
Alpheous - Gaia, Portugal
yep, one of the all time greats. was the song at our wedding, though had Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version of it merged with somewhere over the rainbow existed back then, then THAT would be our wedding song. Enjoy, all, one of the true classics, so beautiful, so tearful, so happy.Jm - Chicago, Il
I love this song, I never get tired of this. They played it at my 5th grade graduation during a Powerpoint, and I cried. When I hear this song it makes my cry, it's so happy.Clare - Baltimore, Md
What a wonderful song! I have heard Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder's duet, and it is very good. But once Satch wraps a song in that warm, gravelly bass, it belongs to him. Armstrong was not an accomplished singer any more than Harpo Marx was an accomplished harpist -- but there's no mistake about who's performing!Jude - Thomasville, Ga
If evil aliens visited our planet in the future, asking for reasons why not to destroy our home: I'd tell them to read the lyrics to this song...Charles - Somewhere, Other
Wasn't it also used in the Computer Animated "Toy Story"? Brilliant film, with some exelent music.Nick - Cambridge, England
The song went nowhere in the US until it came out on the "Good Morning, Viet Nam" soundtrack, where it had been used for irony as Robin Williams' character is being ejected from his Armed Forces Radio job.

The (entirely different) Sam Cooke song was also covered by Herman's Hermits, who made it a hit by raising the tempo. Paul Simon (I think) brought out and "artsy" version, with a low tempo and an extra verse, in the mid '80s. All in all, the other "What a Wonderful World" is more popular.
Keith - Slc, Ut
No reference to "What a Wonderful World" would be complete without mention of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's haunting version that blends it with "Somewhere over the Rainbow". Brother Iz's song was popularized on an episode of "ER", I believe on the event of the death of the Dr. Mark Green character. Brother Iz was a gentle giant of a Hawaiian singer who died at age 38 in 1997.Dana - Albany, Ny
There's an earlier song with this same title, written by Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert & Lou Adler, and recorded in March 3, 1959, by Sam Cooke. It was also a song about the idea that love - and love alone - could make the world a wonderful place. The mp3 file of this song is now available for download in www.discosantigos.comRato - Lisbon, Portugal
this song us usually played nowadays over scenes of death and war images, like in the documentary "bowling for columbine"Will - Mcallen , Tx
what a great song , as a radio announcer i never get sick of playing itPete - Nowra, Australia
This song is word for word from a children's book, titled: "It's a Wonderful World". But, I'm not sure wether the song came first, or the book.Bob - Okc, Ok
Willie nelson also did a cover of this song for the movie "Michael" starring John Travolta.R - O, De