What a Wonderful World

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"What a Wonderful World"
Single by Louis Armstrong
from the album What a Wonderful World
B-side"Cabaret"
ReleasedOctober 1967
Format7"
Recorded1967
GenreTraditional pop
Length2:21
LabelABC 10982, HMV
Writer(s)Bob Thiele
George David Weiss
Producer(s)Bob Thiele
Louis Armstrong singles chronology
"Mi va de cantare"
(1967)
"What a Wonderful World"
(1967)
"Hello Brother"
(1968)
 
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"What a Wonderful World"
Single by Louis Armstrong
from the album What a Wonderful World
B-side"Cabaret"
ReleasedOctober 1967
Format7"
Recorded1967
GenreTraditional pop
Length2:21
LabelABC 10982, HMV
Writer(s)Bob Thiele
George David Weiss
Producer(s)Bob Thiele
Louis Armstrong singles chronology
"Mi va de cantare"
(1967)
"What a Wonderful World"
(1967)
"Hello Brother"
(1968)

"What a Wonderful World" is a children's song written by Bob Thiele (as "George Douglas") and George David Weiss. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released as a single in 1967. Thiele and Weiss were both prominent in the music world (Thiele as a producer and Weiss as a composer/performer).[1] 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 Bug Music, Inc.

History[edit]

Intended as an antidote for the increasingly racially and politically charged climate of everyday life in the United States, the song also has a hopeful, optimistic tone with regard to the future, with reference to babies being born into the world and having much to look forward to. The song was initially offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down.[2] 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. George was inspired by Louis’s ability to bring people of different colors together. The song was not initially a hit in the United States, where it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because the 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 US, the song hit #116 on the Billboard Bubbling 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.[3] The song made Louis Armstrong the oldest male to top the chart, at sixty-six years and ten months old. Armstrong's record was broken in 2009 when a cover version of "Islands in the Stream" recorded for Comic Relief – which included 68-year-old Tom Jones – reached number one. Tony Bennett did go on to cover What A Wonderful World several times, in 2003 with K.D. Lang paying homage to Tony's late friend Louis Armstrong.

ABC Records' European distributor EMI forced ABC to issue a What A Wonderful World album in 1968 (catalogue number ABCS-650) which did not chart in the US due to ABC's non-promotion of it,[4] but did chart in the UK where it was issued by Stateside Records with catalogue number SSL 10247 and peaked on the British chart at #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 series of the same. In 1988, Armstrong's recording was featured in the film Good Morning, Vietnam and was re-released as a single, hitting #32 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1988. The single charted at number one for the fortnight ending June 27, 1988 on the Australian chart.

The song was also used in the first five episodes of the ABC sitcom Family Matters.

In 2001, rappers Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and The Alchemist released "The Forest," a song which begins with three lines of lyric adapted from "What a Wonderful World", altered to become "an invitation to get high" on marijuana.[5] 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.[5][6]

Notable versions[edit]

20th Century[edit]

21st Century[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What A Wonderful World". The Pop History Dig. Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  2. ^ "Sundance Channel : Video: : SPECTACLE: Season 1 - Episode 5 (clip)". SundanceChannel.com. Archived from the original on 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  3. ^ "45 Discography for HMV Records - UK - POP series 1001-1617". Globaldogproductions.info. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  4. ^ "ABC-Paramount Album Discography, Part 6". Bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  5. ^ a b Chang, Samantha (November 1, 2003). "Court: Ghostface Rap Was 'Fair Use'". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media) 115 (44): 22. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  6. ^ Kohn, Al; Kohn, Bob (2010). Kohn on music licensing (4 ed.). Aspen Publishers. pp. 1647–1648. ISBN 0735590907. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8. 
  8. ^ Grein, Paul (2010-09-24). "Chart Watch Extra: Songs From The Last Century". Nielsen Business Media. Yahoo! Music. Retrieved 2012-03-22. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Congratulations" by Cliff Richard
UK number one single
Louis Armstrong version
24 April 1968 (for 4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Young Girl" by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Preceded by
"Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis
UK Singles Chart number-one single
(Katie Melua & Eva Cassidy version)

December 16, 2007 - December 22, 2007
Succeeded by
"When You Believe" by Leon Jackson