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"
ReleasedSeptember 1, 1967
Studio United Recording, Las Vegas, Nevada, US
Label ABC
Songwriter(s) Bob Thiele (as George Douglas)
George David Weiss [1]
Producer(s) Bob Thiele [1]
Louis Armstrong singles chronology
"Mi va de cantare"
"What a Wonderful World"
"Hello Brother"

"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 in 1967 as a single, which topped the pop charts in the United Kingdom, [1] though it performed poorly in the United States because Larry Newton, the president of ABC Records, disliked the song and refused to promote it.


After appearing in the film Good Morning, Vietnam , the song was re-released as a single in 1988, and it rose to number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100. [2] Armstrong's recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. The publishing for this song is controlled by Concord, BMG Rights Management and Carlin America.

Composition and background

The song was written by producer Bob Thiele (as "George Douglas") and composer and performer George David Weiss. [3]

One source claims the song was first offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down, [4] although Louis Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi disputes this claim. [5] 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.

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 Thiele, 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 swingy 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. [3]

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, [6] 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 before it became an exclusive classical music label. [7] 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.

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, [8] 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. An episode of The Muppet Show produced in 1977 and broadcast early in 1978 featured Rowlf the Dog singing the song to a puppy. 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 and the 1998 film adaptation of Madeline .

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. [9] 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. [9] [10]

By April 2014, Louis Armstrong's 1967 recording had sold 2,173,000 downloads in the United States after it was released digitally. [11]

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1967–68)Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40) [12] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders) [13] 6
Denmark [14] 2
Ireland (IRMA) [15] 2
Norway (VG-lista) [16] 6
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade) [17] 7
UK Singles (OCC) [18] 1
West Germany (Official German Charts) [19] 6


RegionCertification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Denmark) [32] Gold45,000Double-dagger-14-plain.png
Italy (FIMI) [33] Gold15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI) [34] Platinum600,000Double-dagger-14-plain.png
United States (RIAA) [35] Gold500,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Double-dagger-14-plain.png Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

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" by Katie Melua
ReleasedDecember 3, 2007
Label Dramatico
Producer(s) Mike Batt
Eva Cassidy singles chronology
"Fields of Gold"
"What a Wonderful World"
Katie Melua singles chronology
"Mary Pickford"
"What a Wonderful World"
"If the Lights Go Out"
Music video
"What a Wonderful World" on YouTube

In 2007, Georgian-British singer-songwriter Katie Melua recorded a version of "What a Wonderful World" with American singer and guitarist Eva Cassidy, who had died 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. [36] 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. [36] This version of "What a Wonderful World" was available for purchase only at Tesco stores and on the Tesco Direct website. [37]

Upon its release, the single debuted at number 45 on the Scottish Singles Chart on the week of December 9, 2007. [38] 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 Sweden, reaching number 19 in November 2008, and it became a minor hit in the Wallonia region of 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." [36] The duet was later included on her 2008 compilation album The Katie Melua Collection . [39]


Weekly charts

Chart (2007–2008)Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia) [40] 24
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100) [41] 6
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan) [42] 19
Scotland (OCC) [43] 1
UK Singles (OCC) [44] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (2007)Position
UK Singles (OCC) [45] 58

Other notable versions

Related Research Articles

Over the Rainbow Song by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg published in 1939

"Over the Rainbow" is a ballad composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg. It was written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and was sung by actress Judy Garland in her starring role as Dorothy Gale. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and became Garland's signature song.

Katie Melua British-Georgian singer and songwriter

Ketevan "Katie" Melua is a Georgian-British singer and songwriter. She moved to the United Kingdom at the age of eight – first to Belfast, and then to London in 1999. Melua is signed to the small Dramatico record label, under the management of composer Mike Batt, and made her musical debut in 2003. In 2006, she became the United Kingdom's best-selling female artist and Europe's highest selling European female artist.

<i>Call Off the Search</i> 2003 studio album by Katie Melua

Call off the Search is the debut studio album by Georgian-British jazz and blues singer Katie Melua, released in 2003.

Juice Newton American pop and country singer

Judy Kay "Juice" Newton is an American pop and country singer, songwriter, and musician. To date, Newton has received five Grammy Award nominations in the Pop and Country Best Female Vocalist categories – winning once in 1983 – as well as an ACM Award for Top New Female Artist and two Billboard Female Album Artist of the Year awards. Newton's other awards include a People's Choice Award for "Best Female Vocalist" and the Australian Music Media's "Number One International Country Artist."

Physical (Olivia Newton-John song) Single

"Physical" is a song recorded by English-born Australian singer Olivia Newton-John for her 1981 twelfth studio album of the same name. It was released as the album's lead single on 28 September 1981, by MCA Records. The song was produced by John Farrar and written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick, who had originally intended to offer it to English singer Rod Stewart. The song had also been offered to American singer Tina Turner by her manager Roger Davies, but when Turner declined, Davies gave the song to Newton-John, another of his clients.

American Idiot (song) 2004 single by Green Day

"American Idiot" is a protest song by the American rock band Green Day. It is the title track from their seventh studio album of the same name and released as the first single from it. The song received positive reviews by critics and was nominated for four 2005 Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song, and Best Music Video. It is considered one of the band's signature songs.

The Love You Save 1970 single by the Jackson 5

"The Love You Save" is a song recorded by the Jackson 5 for Motown Records. It was released as a single on May 13, 1970, and held the number-one spot on the soul singles chart for six weeks and the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for two weeks, from June 27 to July 4, 1970. In the UK top 40 chart, it peaked at number 7 in August 1970. The song is the third of the four-in-a-row Jackson 5 number-ones released. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 16 song of 1970, one slot behind the Jackson 5's "ABC".

The Air That I Breathe 1972 song written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood

"The Air That I Breathe" is a ballad written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, initially recorded by Albert Hammond on his 1972 album It Never Rains in Southern California. It was a major hit for the Hollies in early 1974, reaching number two in the UK Singles Chart.

Angel of the Morning

"Angel of the Morning" is a popular song written by Chip Taylor and recorded by many artists, most notably by Merrilee Rush, P. P. Arnold, Connie Eaton, Mary Mason, Guys 'n' Dolls, Melba Montgomery, Olivia Newton-John and Juice Newton.

Wonderful World (Sam Cooke song) 1960 single by Sam Cooke

"Wonderful World" is a song by American singer-songwriter Sam Cooke. Released on April 14, 1960, by Keen Records, it had been recorded during an impromptu session the previous year in March 1959, at Sam Cooke's last recording session at Keen. He signed with RCA Victor in 1960 and "Wonderful World," then unreleased, was issued as a single in competition. The song was mainly composed by songwriting team Lou Adler and Herb Alpert, but Cooke revised the lyrics to mention the subject of education more.

I Think I Love You Original song written and composed by Tony Romeo

"I Think I Love You" is a song by Tony Romeo, written as the debut single for fictional musical TV family The Partridge Family, released in August 1970, a month prior to the debut of the ABC-TV musical sitcom The Partridge Family starring Shirley Jones and featuring David Cassidy, both of whom appear on the record, with Cassidy as lead vocalist. The single topped Billboard's Hot 100 for three weeks in November and December 1970 and later was certified by NARM as the best-selling single of 1970.

The Closest Thing to Crazy 2003 single by Katie Melua

"The Closest Thing to Crazy" is the debut single of Georgia-born singer Katie Melua. The song is featured on her first studio album, Call Off the Search (2003). The song was written as part of the musical Men Who March Away', and appeared first in 1995 on Mike Batt's album Arabesque.

Nine Million Bicycles 2005 single by Katie Melua

"Nine Million Bicycles" is a song written and produced by Mike Batt for the singer Katie Melua's second album, Piece by Piece. It was released as the album's first single in September 2005 and reached number five on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Melua's first top five hit as a solo artist. It was a finalist for The Record of the Year prize, losing to "You Raise Me Up" by Westlife.

Fields of Gold 1993 single by Sting

"Fields of Gold" is a song written and recorded by Sting. It first appeared on his fourth studio album, Ten Summoner's Tales (1993). The song was released as a single on 7 June 1993 but reached only No. 16 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 23 on the US Billboard Hot 100. However, the song did reach the top 10 in Canada and Iceland and became one of Sting's most famous songs.

Be Near Me 1985 single by ABC

"Be Near Me" is a song by English new wave and synth-pop band ABC. It was released in April 1985 as the second single from their third studio album, How to Be a ... Zillionaire! It peaked at No. 26 on the UK Singles Chart in 1985, and was the only single from the album to reach the UK Top 40. It was more successful in the United States where it reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song also went to number-one on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart in September of that year, remaining on top for two weeks.

I Think Were Alone Now 1967 single by Tommy James and the Shondells

"I Think We're Alone Now" is a song written and composed by Ritchie Cordell that was the title selection from a same-named album released by the American recording artists Tommy James and the Shondells. "I Think We're Alone Now" was a 1967 US hit for James and the Shondells, reaching number 1 on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey for five weeks, starting on 24 February 1967, and number 8 for the entire year 1967, and number 4 on the Hot 100 on 22 April 1967, nearly two months later, and one week to the day before Tommy's 20th birthday.

Wonderful (Ja Rule song) 2004 single by Ja Rule

"Wonderful" is a song by American rapper Ja Rule. It was released on September 27, 2004, as the lead single from his sixth studio album, R.U.L.E. (2004). The song features American pop-R&B singers R. Kelly and Ashanti. "Wonderful" topped the UK Singles Chart, reached number five on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaked at number six in both Australia and New Zealand, and became a top-20 hit in Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Wonderful Life (Black song) 1986 song by Black

"Wonderful Life" is a song by the English singer Black from his 1986 album of the same name. It was released twice as a single and was successful the second time, becoming a top ten hit in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK. Black, who wrote the song while broke, commented: "I was really being ironic... Most people took it at face value."

Spaceman (Babylon Zoo song) 1996 single by Babylon Zoo

"Spaceman" is a song by British rock band Babylon Zoo, released in January 1996 as the lead single from their debut album, The Boy with the X-Ray Eyes (1996). Featuring heavily distorted guitars and metallic, robotic sounding vocals, it entered the UK Singles Chart at number one on 21 January 1996, after being featured in a popular Levi's jeans television advertisement in December 1995.

Thats Rock n Roll

"That's Rock 'n' Roll" is a song written and originally recorded by Eric Carmen in 1976. It became a popular Billboard top 10 hit in 1977 for teen idol Shaun Cassidy.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 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. "Chart History: Louis Armstrong – Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  3. 1 2 "What A Wonderful World". The Pop History Dig. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
  4. "Sundance Channel : Video: : SPECTACLE: Season 1 – Episode 5 (clip)". SundanceChannel.com. Archived from the original on January 7, 2010. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  5. "Ricky Riccardi: Video Pops What a Wonderful World": The First Fifty Years" . Retrieved August 4, 2018.[ non-primary source needed ]
  6. Black, Johnny (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Thunder Bay Press. p. 97. ISBN   978-1592236510.
  7. "45 Discography for HMV Records – UK – POP series 1001–1617". Globaldogproductions.info. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  8. "ABC-Paramount Album Discography, Part 6". Bsnpubs.com. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  9. 1 2 Chang, Samantha (November 1, 2003). "Court: Ghostface Rap Was 'Fair Use'". Billboard. 115 (44): 22. ISSN   0006-2510.
  10. Kohn, Al; Kohn, Bob (2010). Kohn on music licensing (4 ed.). Aspen Publishers. pp. 1647–1648. ISBN   978-0735590908 . Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  11. Grein, Paul (April 16, 2014). "Chart Watch: "Happy" tops 4M". Yahoo! Music.
  12. "Austriancharts.at – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  13. "Ultratop.be – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  14. "Danske Hitlister.dk". Danske Hitlister.dk. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  15. "The Irish Charts – Search Results – What a Wonderful World". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  16. "Norwegiancharts.com – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". VG-lista. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  17. "Swisscharts.com – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  18. "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  19. "Offiziellecharts.de – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved March 17, 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. Archived from the original on April 9, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2014. Hoogste notering in de top 30 : 1
  22. "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 8936." RPM . Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  23. "Top RPM Singles: Issue 8664." RPM . Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  24. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Louis Armstrong" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  25. "Dutchcharts.nl – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  26. "Charts.nz – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  27. "Louis Armstrong Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  28. "Louis Armstrong Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  29. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 . Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN   0-646-11917-6.
  30. Carolyn Hope. "Barry's Hits of All Decades Pop rock n roll Music Chart Hits". hitsofalldecades.com.
  31. Whitburn, Joel (1999). Pop Annual. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. ISBN   0-89820-142-X.
  32. "Danish single certifications – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  33. "Italian single certifications – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana . Retrieved March 17, 2014. Select "2014" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "What a Wonderful World" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  34. "British single certifications – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". British Phonographic Industry . Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  35. "American single certifications – Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World". Recording Industry Association of America . Retrieved April 19, 2020.If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  36. 1 2 3 "Katie Melua page". Eva Cassidy Web Site. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  37. Masterton, James (December 16, 2007). "Week Ending December 22nd 2007". Chart Watch UK. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  38. "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100 09 December 2007 – 15 December 2007". Official Charts Company . Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  39. "Katie Melua – The Katie Melua Collection". AllMusic . Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  40. "Ultratop.be – Eva Cassidy & Katie Melua – What a Wonderful World" (in French). Ultratip. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  41. "Hits of the World – Eurocharts" (PDF). Billboard . Vol. 120 no. 1. January 5, 2008. p. 63. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  42. "Swedishcharts.com – Eva Cassidy & Katie Melua – What a Wonderful World". Singles Top 100. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  43. "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  44. "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  45. "End of Year Singles Chart Top 100 – 2007". Official Charts Company . Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  46. Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 78. ISBN   978-0-89820-203-8.
  47. "What a Wonderful World - Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic . Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  48. "what a wonderful world | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  49. Grein, Paul (September 24, 2010). "Chart Watch Extra: Songs From The Last Century". Nielsen Business Media. Yahoo! Music . Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  50. "Rod Stewart – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  51. Ding, Sophie (October 12, 2018). "Barbra Streisand releases soaring 'Imagine / What a Wonderful World' mash-up from new album 'Walls'". Billboard . Retrieved August 23, 2020.