What a Wonderful World

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"What a Wonderful World"
Louis Armstrong What a Wonderful World.jpg
Single by Louis Armstrong
from the album What a Wonderful World
B-side "Cabaret"
Released 1967
Format 7"
Genre
Length 2:21
Label ABC 10982, HMV
Songwriter(s) Bob Thiele (as George Douglas)
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 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.[1] 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]

One source claims the song was initially offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down,[3] although Louis Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi disputes this claim. [4] The song 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,[5] but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart.[1] In the United States, the song hit No. 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.[6] The song made Louis Armstrong the oldest male to top the UK Singles Chart.[1] 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,[7] 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.[8] 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.[8][9]

By April 2014, Louis Armstrong's 1967 recording had sold 2,173,000 downloads in the United States after it was released digitally.[10]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Peak positions[edit]

Chart (1967/68) Peak
position
Australia[11] 29
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[12] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[13] 6
Denmark[14] 2
Germany (Official German Charts)[15] 6
Ireland[16] 2
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[17] 15
Netherlands (MediaMarkt)[18] 14
New Zealand 15
Norway (VG-lista)[19] 6
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[20] 7
U.K. Singles Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 116
U.S. Adult Contemporary (Billboard) 12
Chart (1976) Peak
position
Italy (FIMI)[21] 11
Chart (1988) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[22] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[13] 7
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[23] 1
Canada (RPM Magazine) 13
Ireland[16] 30
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[17] 5
Netherlands (MediaMarkt)[18] 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)[24] 28

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification
Italy (FIMI)[25] Gold

Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua version[edit]

"What a Wonderful World"
Eva Cassidy Katie Melua What a Wonderful World.jpg
Single by Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua
from the album The Katie Melua Collection
B-side "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Katie Melua)
Released December 3, 2007
Format CD single
Length 4:19
Label Dramatico
Producer(s) Mike Batt
Eva Cassidy singles chronology
"Fields of Gold"
(2007)
"What a Wonderful World"
(2007)
"Songbird"
(2007)
Katie Melua singles chronology
"Mary Pickford (Used to Eat Roses)"
(2007)
"What a Wonderful World"
(2007)
"If the Lights Go Out"
(2008)

In 2007, Georgian-British singer-songwriter Katie Melua recorded a version of the song with American singer and guitarist Eva Cassidy, who had passed away in 1996. Recorded by Melua singing over the original Cassidy track, the duet was released in late 2007 as a charity single for the British Red Cross.[26] Melua, who considers Cassidy one of her musical idols, had previously sang with Cassidy in this manner on Christmas Eve 2006, when she performed "Over the Rainbow" on the BBC One television program Duets Impossible with a videotape of Cassidy singing the song.[26]

Upon release, the single debuted at number 45 on the Scottish Singles Chart on the week of December 9, 2007.[27] The next week, the song rose 44 positions to number one while also debuting at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming both Cassidy's and Melua's first number-one single in the United Kingdom. However, the song quickly dropped off the UK chart after peaking, spending only five weeks in the UK top 100. In Scotland, the song stayed in the top 100 for 11 weeks. In November 2008, the song peaked at number 19 in Sweden and was a minor hit in Walloon Belgium.

When the song reached number one in the UK, Melua thanked everyone who bought the single, saying, "Thank you to everyone who has shown such festive goodwill."[26] The duet was later included on her 2008 compilation album The Katie Melua Collection.

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2007–2008) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[28] 24
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[29] 19
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[30] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[31] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2007) Position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[32] 58

Other notable versions[edit]

Appearances in film, television and others[edit]

Film[edit]

Title Performer Year Source
Arjun Reddy (Telugu movie) Background music 2017
Geostorm (teaser trailer only) Sharon Van Etten & Juggernaut Kid 2017
Range 15 Louis Armstrong 2016 1
Finding Dory Louis Armstrong 2016 1
Un gallo con muchos huevos Louis Armstrong 2015 1
Mein Salzburg Louis Armstrong 2015 1
Back to the Sea Louis Armstrong 2012 1
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
(slightly different version of the song)
Dwayne Johnson 2012
New Year's Eve Louis Armstrong 2011 1
Head Over Heels Louis Armstrong 2010 1
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay Louis Armstrong 2008 1
Madagascar Louis Armstrong 2005 1
Swing Girls Louis Armstrong 2004 1
Freaky Friday Joey Ramone 2003 1
Bowling for Columbine Louis Armstrong 2002 1
Little Marines Louis Armstrong 1991 1
Meet Joe Black Louis Armstrong 1998 1
Madeline Louis Armstrong 1998 1
Wrestling with Alligators Louis Armstrong 1998 1
12 Monkeys Louis Armstrong 1995 1
The Kennedy Years (JFK Remembered) Louis Armstrong 1993 1
Ciao, Professore! Louis Armstrong 1992 1
Good Morning, Vietnam Louis Armstrong 1987 1
Chicken Little (teaser trailer only) Louis Armstrong 2005 1
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (teaser trailer only) Louis Armstrong 2005

Television[edit]

Series Episode Performer Year Source
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
Racheengel Louis Armstrong 2001 1
Lust & Suhne Louis Armstrong 2001 1
Hahn im Korb Louis Armstrong 1999 1
Die Lugners #1.9 Louis Armstrong 2003 1
#1.3 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
Vamp Louis Armstrong 1991 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

Others[edit]

  • A recreation of the song was used in a 2004 MCI Inc. commercial.[38]

Sources[edit]

  • Internet Movie Database[39]
  • Jim Henson's Red Book[40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ "Ricky Riccardi: Video Pops "What a Wonderful World": The First Fifty Years". Retrieved 2018-08-04. 
  5. ^ Black, Johnny (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Thunder Bay Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-1592236510. 
  6. ^ "45 Discography for HMV Records - UK - POP series 1001-1617". Globaldogproductions.info. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  7. ^ "ABC-Paramount Album Discography, Part 6". Bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  8. ^ a b Chang, Samantha (November 1, 2003). "Court: Ghostface Rap Was 'Fair Use'". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. 115 (44): 22. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  9. ^ Kohn, Al; Kohn, Bob (2010). Kohn on music licensing (4 ed.). Aspen Publishers. pp. 1647–1648. ISBN 0735590907. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  10. ^ Grein, Paul (April 16, 2014). "Chart Watch: "Happy" tops 4M". Yahoo! Music. Yahoo!. 
  11. ^ "Go-Set Australian Charts". Go-Set. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  12. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Ultratop.be – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  14. ^ "Danske Hitlister.dk". Danske Hitlister.dk. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  16. ^ a b "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". 
  17. ^ a b "Dutchcharts.nl – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  18. ^ a b "MediaMarkt Top 40". Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  19. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". VG-lista. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  20. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  21. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: S" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  22. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  23. ^ "What A Wonderful World – LOUIS ARMSTRONG" (in Dutch). Top 30. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2014. Hoogste notering in de top 30 : 1 
  24. ^ "Rock on the Net". Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  25. ^ "Italian single certifications – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved March 17, 2014. 
  26. ^ a b c "Katie Melua page". Eva Cassidy Web Site. Retrieved July 9, 2018. 
  27. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100 09 December 2007 - 15 December 2007". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 9, 2018. 
  28. ^ "Ultratop.be – Eva Cassidy & Katie Melua – What a Wonderful World" (in French). Ultratip. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  29. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Eva Cassidy & Katie Melua – What a Wonderful World". Singles Top 100. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  30. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  31. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  32. ^ "End of Year Singles Chart Top 100 - 2007". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 July 2018. 
  33. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8. 
  34. ^ Grein, Paul (2010-09-24). "Chart Watch Extra: Songs From The Last Century". Nielsen Business Media. Yahoo! Music. Retrieved 2012-03-22. 
  35. ^ "Rod Stewart - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-08-03. 
  36. ^ "Playing For Change". 
  37. ^ "Abertura de Sete Vidas traz pequenas cenas que remetem a nossa memória afetiva". Globo.com. 2015-03-09. Retrieved 2015-07-09. 
  38. ^ "MCI - Wonderful World (2004) 0:60 (USA)". Adland. Retrieved 2018-06-02. 
  39. ^ "Louis Armstrong". IMDb. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  40. ^ "5/25/1977 – 'Don Knotts (MS)'". Retrieved 2016-04-30. 

External links[edit]