Stevens wrote this about searching for peace and happiness in a crazy world. There was some speculation that much of the song was a message to Patti D'Arbanville, an actress he had been dating. Stevens cleared this up when he spoke about the song on The Chris Isaak Hour in 2009. Said Stevens: "I was trying to relate to my life. I was at the point where it was beginning to happen and I was myself going into the world. I'd done my career before, and I was sort of warning myself to be careful this time around, because it was happening. It was not me writing about somebody specific, although other people may have informed the song, but it was more about me. It's talking about losing touch with home and reality - home especially."
This was a #8 UK hit for Jimmy Cliff three months before Stevens released his version. Cliff explained to Mojo magazine July 2012 that Stevens produced his cover. "I felt an affinity with Cat Stevens," he said. "They tried to market him as a rock act and like me, he was more than that and one day I went to the publisher and he played me this demo of 'Wild World' and he told me that Steve (Cat's real name) had written it but he didn't like it. I loved it right away so he called up Steve and put me on the phone to him. Steve asked what my key was, I said and he started playing guitar down the phone, He said we have to record it together so he went in and did the track and I went in the following day, helped put on the backing voices with Doris Troy and then it was time to put my voice on and Steve directed me to sing the high notes. He was a really good producer and it was a big hit."
Maxi Priest recorded this in 1988. His version hit #5 in the UK.
This was released as a single only in the US. Stevens' European label, Island Records, wanted to encourage people to buy the albums rather than the 45s.
This was one of the songs that convinced Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, to release a boxed set of his songs in 2001. He stopped making secular music in 1979, but came to realize that people find strength and inspiration in the songs he recorded as Cat Stevens.
This was Stevens' first song to chart in the US.
In an interview with Mojo magazine June 2009, the comment was made that lyrically this song has "an uninhibited simplicity." Stevens responded: "It was one of those chord sequences that's very common in Spanish music. I turned it around and came up with that theme- which is a recurring theme in my work- which is to do with leaving, the sadness of leaving, and the anticipation of what lies beyond. There is a criticism sometimes of my music, that it's kind of naïve, but then again that's exactly why people like it. It goes back to the pure childish approach of seeing things almost for the first time. A kid can say things like, 'Why is a cow?' You shouldn't put those words together! But if you do, then it makes you stop and think."
Stevens that this is, "a song about me."
TV presenter Jonathan King covered this after he accused the Pet Shop Boys of ripping off the song's melody for their 1987 hit "It's A Sin
." He eventually dropped the claim... after the duo sued him and won.