What a Wonderful World

Last updated
"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"
Released1967
Format 7"
Genre
Length2:21
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.

Bob Thiele was an American record producer who worked on numerous classic jazz albums and record labels.

George David Weiss was an American songwriter and arranger, who had been a president of the Songwriters Guild of America.

Louis Armstrong American jazz trumpeter, composer and singer

Louis Daniel Armstrong, nicknamed Satchmo, Satch, and Pops, was an American trumpeter, composer, vocalist and occasional actor who was one of the most influential figures in jazz. His career spanned five decades, from the 1920s to the 1960s, and different eras in the history of jazz. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

Contents

History

One source claims the song was first offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down, [3] although Louis Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi disputes this claim. [4] 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.

Tony Bennett American singer

Anthony Dominick Benedetto, known professionally as Tony Bennett, is an American singer of traditional pop standards, big band, show tunes, and jazz. He is also a painter, having created works under the name Anthony Benedetto that are on permanent public display in several institutions. He is the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York.

Graham Nash English musician

Graham William Nash, OBE is a British-American singer-songwriter and musician. Nash is known for his light tenor voice and for his songwriting contributions as a member of the English pop/rock group the Hollies and the folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash. Nash became an American citizen on 14 August 1978 and holds dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Because he was gigging at the Tropicana Hotel, Armstrong recorded the song in Las Vegas at Bill Porter’s United Recording studio. The session was scheduled to follow Armstrong's midnight show, and by 2 am the musicians were settled and tape was rolling. Arranger Artie Butler was there with songwriters Weiss and Theile, and Armstrong was in the studio singing with the orchestra. Armstrong had recently signed to ABC Records, and ABC president Larry Newton showed up to photograph Armstrong. Newton wanted a swingey pop song like "Hello, Dolly!", a big hit for Armstrong when he was with Kapp Records, so when Newton heard the slow pace of "What a Wonderful World", he tried to stop the session. Newton was locked out of the studio for his disruption, but a second problem arose: nearby freight train whistles interrupted the session twice, forcing the recording to start over. Armstrong shook his head and laughed off the distractions, keeping his composure. The session ended around 6 am, going longer than expected. To make sure the orchestra members were paid extra for their overtime, Armstrong accepted only $250 musicians union scale for his work. [2]

Tropicana Las Vegas skyscraper

The Tropicana Las Vegas is a hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. It is owned and operated by Penn National Gaming and is a franchise of Hilton's DoubleTree chain. It offers 1,467 rooms, a 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) gaming floor, and 72,000 sq ft (6,700 m2) of convention and exhibit space.

Bill Porter (sound engineer) audio engineer

Bill Porter was an American audio engineer who helped shape the Nashville sound and recorded stars such as Chet Atkins, Louis Armstrong, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Gladys Knight, Barbara Streisand, Diana Ross, Skeeter Davis, Ike & Tina Turner, Sammy Davis Jr., and Roy Orbison from the late 1950s through the 1980s. In one week of 1960, his recordings accounted for 15 of Billboard magazine's "Top 100," a feat none have matched. Porter's engineering career covered over 7,000 recording sessions, and yielded 300 chart records, 49 Top 10, 11 Number Ones, and 37 gold records.

Arthur Butler is an American popular music arranger, songwriter, and pianist. In a long career, he has been involved in numerous hit records and other recordings, and has been awarded over 60 gold and platinum albums.

The song was not initially a hit in the United States, where it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because Newton did not like or 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. 16 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 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.

UK Singles Chart British singles sales chart

The UK Singles Chart is compiled by the Official Charts Company (OCC), on behalf of the British record industry, listing the top-selling singles in the United Kingdom, based upon physical sales, paid-for downloads and streaming. The Official Chart, broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and MTV, is the UK music industry's recognised official measure of singles and albums popularity because it is the most comprehensive research panel of its kind, today surveying over 15,000 retailers and digital services daily, capturing 99.9% of all singles consumed in Britain across the week, and over 98% of albums. To be eligible for the chart, a single is currently defined by the Official Charts Company (OCC) as either a 'single bundle' having no more than four tracks and not lasting longer than 25 minutes or one digital audio track not longer than 15 minutes with a minimum sale price of 40 pence. The rules have changed many times as technology has developed, the most notable being the inclusion of digital downloads in 2005 and streaming in July 2014.

<i>Billboard</i> (magazine) American music magazine

Billboard is an American entertainment media brand owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, a division of Eldridge Industries. It publishes pieces involving news, video, opinion, reviews, events, and style, and is also known for its music charts, including the Hot 100 and Billboard 200, tracking the most popular songs and albums in different genres. It also hosts events, owns a publishing firm, and operates several TV shows.

Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles is a chart published weekly by Billboard magazine in the United States. The chart lists the top songs that have not yet charted on the main Billboard Hot 100. Chart rankings are based on radio airplay, sales and streams. In its initial years, the chart listed 15 positions, but expanded to as many as 36 during the 1960s, particularly during years when over 700 singles made the Billboard Hot 100 chart. From 1974 to 1985, the chart consisted of 10 positions; since 1992, the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart has listed 25 positions.

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.

EMI Records record label founded by the EMI company

EMI Records was a British record label founded by the music company of the same name in 1972 as its flagship label, and launched in January 1973 as the successor to its Columbia and Parlophone record labels. The label was later launched worldwide. It has a branch in India called "EMI Records India", run by director Mohit Suri.

Stateside Records

Stateside ($tateside) Records is a British record label, owned by Warner Music Group and operates through its Parlophone and Warner Bros. Records imprints. Upon creation, it initially released licensed American recordings and is now a reissue label.

The song gradually became something of a standard and reached a new level of popularity. In 1978, it was featured in the closing scenes of BBC radio's, 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 .

<i>The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy</i> 1979-1992 series of five books by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a comedy science fiction series created by Douglas Adams. Originally a radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, it was later adapted to other formats, including stage shows, novels, comic books, a 1981 TV series, a 1984 video game, and 2005 feature film.

<i>The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy</i> (TV series) BBC television series

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a BBC television adaptation of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which was broadcast in January and February 1981 on UK television station BBC Two. The adaptation follows the original radio series in 1978 and 1980, the first novel and double LP, in 1979, and the stage shows, in 1979 and 1980, making it the fifth iteration of the guide.

<i>Good Morning, Vietnam</i> 1987 film by Barry Levinson

Good Morning, Vietnam is a 1987 American comedy-drama war film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed by Barry Levinson. Set in Saigon in 1965, during the Vietnam War, the film stars Robin Williams as a radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio Service, who proves hugely popular with the troops, but infuriates his superiors with what they call his "irreverent tendency". The story is loosely based on the experiences of AFRS radio DJ Adrian Cronauer.

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 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

Weekly charts

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 Zealand15
Norway (VG-lista) [19] 6
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade) [20] 7
UK Singles Chart1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100116
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 Zealand8
Poland22
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

Region Certification
Italy (FIMI) [25] Gold

Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua version

"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)
ReleasedDecember 3, 2007
Format CD single
Length4:19
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 sung 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. The cover was also successful in Poland, reaching number five on the LP3 chart in February 2008. In November the same year, it peaked at number 19 in Sweden and became 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

Weekly charts

Chart (2007–2008)Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia) [28] 24
Poland (LP3) [29] 5
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan) [30] 19
Scotland (Official Charts Company) [31] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company) [32] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (2007)Position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company) [33] 58

Other notable versions

Appearances in film, television and others

Film

TitlePerformerYearSource
Arjun Reddy (Telugu movie)Background music2017
Geostorm (teaser trailer only)Sharon Van Etten & Juggernaut Kid2017
Range 15 Louis Armstrong20161
Finding Dory Louis Armstrong20161
Un gallo con muchos huevos Louis Armstrong20151
Mein SalzburgLouis Armstrong20151
Back to the Sea Louis Armstrong20121
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
(slightly different version of the song)
Dwayne Johnson 2012
New Year's EveLouis Armstrong20111
Head Over HeelsLouis Armstrong20101
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo BayLouis Armstrong20081
Madagascar Louis Armstrong20051
Swing Girls Louis Armstrong20041
Freaky Friday Joey Ramone20031
Bowling for Columbine Louis Armstrong20021
Little Marines Louis Armstrong19911
Meet Joe BlackLouis Armstrong19981
MadelineLouis Armstrong19981
Wrestling with AlligatorsLouis Armstrong19981
12 Monkeys Louis Armstrong19951
The Kennedy Years (JFK Remembered)Louis Armstrong19931
Ciao, Professore!Louis Armstrong19921
Good Morning, Vietnam Louis Armstrong19871
Chicken Little (teaser trailer only)Louis Armstrong20051
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (teaser trailer only)Louis Armstrong2005

Television

SeriesEpisodePerformerYearSource
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Mid-way to Mid-TownLouis Armstrong2018
The OA ChampionSharon Van Etten & Juggernaut Kid20161
MythBusters The Reunion SpecialLouis Armstrong20161
Childhood's End #1.1Joseph William Morgan2015
The SimpsonsEvery Man's DreamThe Clarks20151
Strictly Come Dancing Week 9 ResultsLouis Armstrong20141
Inspector George GentlyThe Lost ChildLouis Armstrong20121
The Mentalist Blinking Red LightLouis Armstrong20111
An Idiot Abroad Karl Comes HomeLouis Armstrong20101
So You Think You Can Dance (Canada)Top 8 PerformLouis Armstrong20091
The SimpsonsThe Good, the Sad and the DruglyLouis Armstrong20091
20 to 1Greatest Songs of All TimeLouis Armstrong20061
Life on Mars#1.6Louis Armstrong20061
House, MDDNRLouis Armstrong20051
Hinter GitternFahrte aufgenommenLouis Armstrong20041
RacheengelLouis Armstrong20011
Lust & SuhneLouis Armstrong20011
Hahn im KorbLouis Armstrong19991
Die Lugners#1.9Louis Armstrong20031
#1.3Louis Armstrong20031
Dawson's CreekHopelessLouis Armstrong20011
Gilmore GirlsRory's Birthday PartiesLouis Armstrong20001
The King of QueensHead FirstLouis Armstrong19981
CybillCybill Discovers the Meaning of LifeLouis Armstrong19951
VampLouis Armstrong19911
Florida LadyLauf dem Leben nicht davonLouis Armstrong19941
Twin Peaks#2.7Louis Armstrong19901
The Green ManLouis Armstrong19901
MoonlightingA Womb with a ViewLouis Armstrong19881
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy#1.6Louis Armstrong19811
The Muppet ShowDon Knotts (#2.1)Rowlf (Jim Henson)19772

Others

Sources

Related Research Articles

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