What a Wonderful World

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For the Sam Cooke song, see Wonderful World (Sam Cooke song). For other uses, see Wonderful World (disambiguation).
"What a Wonderful World"
Single by Louis Armstrong
from the album What a Wonderful World
B-side "Cabaret"
Released October 18, 1967
Format 7"
Recorded August 16, 1967
Genre Traditional pop
Length 2:21
Label ABC 10982, HMV
Writer(s) Bob Thiele
George David Weiss[1]
Producer(s) Bob Thiele[1]
Louis Armstrong singles chronology
"Mi va de cantare"
(1967)
"What a Wonderful World"
(1967)
"Hello Brother"
(1968)

"What a Wonderful World" is a 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).[2] 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.

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.[3] 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,[citation needed] but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart.[1] 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.[4] The song made Louis Armstrong the oldest male to top the UK Singles Chart, at sixty-six years and ten months old.[1] Armstrong's record was broken in 2009 when a cover version 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 cover "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 US, due to ABC's not promoting it,[5] 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 series of the same. In 1988, Armstrong's recording was featured in the film Good Morning, Vietnam, in which a DJ played it on the radio in 1965—two years before it was recorded—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, before being replaced by an original theme song, "As Days Go By", sung by Jesse Frederick.

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.[6] 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.[6][7]

As of April 2014, Louis Armstrong's 1967 recording has sold 2,173,000 downloads in the US after it was released digitally.[8]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Peak positions[edit]

Chart (1967/68) Peak
position
Australia[9] 29
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[10] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[11] 6
Denmark[12] 2
Germany (Media Control Charts)[13] 6
Ireland[14] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 15
Netherlands (MediaMarkt)[16] 14
New Zealand 15
Norway (VG-lista)[17] 6
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[18] 7
U.K. 1
U.S. (Billboard) 116
U.S. Adult Contemporary (Billboard) 12
Chart (1976) Peak
position
Italy (FIMI)[19] 11
Chart (1988) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[20] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[11] 7
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[21] 1
Ireland[14] 30
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 5
Netherlands (MediaMarkt)[16] 2
New Zealand 8
Poland 22
U.S. (Billboard) 32
U.S. Adult Contemporary (Billboard) 7
U.S. (Radio & Records) 37
U.S. (Cashbox) 37
U.S. (Rock on the Net - ARC Weekly Top 40)[22] 28

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification
Italy (FIMI)[23] Gold

Notable versions[edit]

20th Century[edit]

21st Century[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 117. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  2. ^ "What A Wonderful World". The Pop History Dig. Retrieved 2013-04-21. 
  3. ^ "Sundance Channel : Video: : SPECTACLE: Season 1 - Episode 5 (clip)". SundanceChannel.com. Archived from the original on 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  4. ^ "45 Discography for HMV Records - UK - POP series 1001-1617". Globaldogproductions.info. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  5. ^ "ABC-Paramount Album Discography, Part 6". Bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  6. ^ a b Chang, Samantha (November 1, 2003). "Court: Ghostface Rap Was 'Fair Use'". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media) 115 (44): 22. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  7. ^ Kohn, Al; Kohn, Bob (2010). Kohn on music licensing (4 ed.). Aspen Publishers. pp. 1647–1648. ISBN 0735590907. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  8. ^ Grein, Paul (April 16, 2014). "Chart Watch: "Happy" tops 4M". Yahoo! Music. Yahoo!. 
  9. ^ "Go-Set Australian Charts". Go-Set. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Ultratop.be – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  12. ^ "Danske Hitlister.dk". Danske Hitlister.dk. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "Officialcharts.de – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  14. ^ a b "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". 
  15. ^ a b "Dutchcharts.nl – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  16. ^ a b "MediaMarkt Top 40". Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". VG-lista. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  18. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  19. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: S" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  21. ^ "What A Wonderful World – LOUIS ARMSTRONG" (in Dutch). Top 30. Retrieved 4 August 2014. Hoogste notering in de top 30 : 1 
  22. ^ "Rock on the Net". Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  23. ^ "Italian single certifications – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Retrieved March 17, 2014.  Select Online in the field Scegli la sezione. Select Week -- and Year ----. Enter Louis Armstrong in the field Artista. Click Avvia la ricerca
  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8. 
  25. ^ 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