|"What a Wonderful World"|
|Single by Louis Armstrong|
|Released||January 1, 1968|
|Label||ABC Records (US)
HMV Records (UK)
|Writer(s)||Bob Thiele (under pseudonym of George Douglas)
George David Weiss
"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 1968. Thiele and Weiss were both prominent in the music world (Thiele as a producer and Weiss as a composer/performer). Some have suggested that pianist Dana Pelkie collaborated on the song using "George Douglas" as a pseudonym, but this has never been confirmed. Armstrong's recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
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 the song down. Thereafter, it was offered to Louis Armstrong. The song was not initially a hit in the United States, where it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because the head of ABC Records did not like the song and so did not promote it, but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK singles chart. In the U.S. the song hit #116 on the Bubbling Under Charts. It was also the biggest-selling single of 1968 in the UK where it was also among the last pop singles issued by HMV Records before becoming an exclusive classical music label. The song made Louis Armstrong the oldest male to top the charts, at sixty-six years and ten months old. Armstrong's record was broken in 2009 when the cover of Islands in the Stream recorded for Comic Relief reached number one. One of the featured artists on the song was Tom Jones.
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, 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. It was re-released in America shortly after Armstrong's death in 1971 and became a top ten hit. In 1988, Louis Armstrong's 1968 recording was featured in the film Good Morning Vietnam and was re-released as a single, hitting #32 on the US Billboard chart in February 1988. The single charted at number one for the fortnight ending June 27, 1988 on the Australian charts.
"What a Wonderful World" was used ironically in 1978 radio broadcast of the last episode of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (first series). The song replaced the usual end credits as the two main characters, stranded on pre-history Earth, lament its destruction witnessed in the first episode. The song was later used for the closing titles of the corresponding television episode, and in the first teaser for the Hitchhiker's film, lasting only one stanza before the Earth explodes.
In 1985, a part of the song was used in The Runner (Davandeh), a famous Iranian movie. It was included in the soundtrack for the film Good Morning, Vietnam in 1987, and, thanks to its newfound exposure in the film, it landed at #1 in Australia, becoming Armstrong's biggest hit there. In the film, the song plays over a montage of bombings and other violence (similar to the use of the song "We'll Meet Again" in the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). This use of the song in an ironic way has since become something of a cliché in film and television. Its use in Good Morning, Vietnam led to its eventual use in yet another Vietnam War themed fiction, Tour of Duty.
In 1989, the Louis Armstrong rendition of the song was used as the opening theme for the pilot episode of the television sitcom Family Matters. It would be subsequently replaced by Jesse Frederick's "As Days Go By".
It was also used in the films Without a Paddle and Twelve Monkeys, and the television series Scrubs, in the episode "My Butterfly"."What a Wonderful World" in the show was sung by Joey Ramone of The Ramones. It was sung by Willie Nelson for the 1996 film Michael. A Willie Nelson version also was used for the "Don't Mess With Texas" anti-littering public service announcement campaign.
The Louis Armstrong version was also used during a sequence in Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine, where it accompanies scenes of violence in a montage about United States intervention in international affairs, as well as having the Joey Ramone cover playing over the ending credits. In the 2005 film, Madagascar it appears as a background song for a scene where, ironically, various cute animals are eaten by other animals living on the "Wonderful World". On the program Pirate Radio (airing in Nashville, Tennessee, 1999–2001), an acoustic guitar version was used weekly as a music bed. It has also been used ironically as the theme music to the BBC series A Life of Grime, and as the closing theme to one series of Grumpy Old Men, in a version performed by the cast of the programme. The Louis Armstrong version was used also in the 2004 Japanese film Swing Girls during a scene where the main characters are chased by a wild boar. It was also used in the show House, in the episode DNR. It is also featured in the sixth episode of the BBC/Kudos 1973-set crime drama, Life on Mars. The Joey Ramone cover was also played over the ending credits of the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Chris Addison's Civilisation and in the commercial for "Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction". The Israel Kamakawiwo'ole medley with Over the Rainbow was featured in the films Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, and 50 First Dates.
In 2003, "What a Wonderful World" was performed by Guy Sebastian when he traveled to the UK to compete in World Idol shortly after becoming the inaugural Australian Idol winner and recording his first album Just as I Am.
In recent years, the song has come to be associated with the Christmas season (although it has no holiday or seasonal content in its lyrics) and has become a staple for the "Father/Daughter" dance at wedding receptions. In 2006, XM Satellite Radio added "What a Wonderful World" to its Holiday/Christmas rotation, as did many terrestrial radio stations in the U.S. Numerous recording artists have covered the song for inclusion on their Christmas-themed albums, including Newsong and LeAnn Rimes. Also in 2006, a rock version appeared in the Suzuki New Grand Vitara television commercial performed by David Mills and Ian Wilson. The song has also been used for New Year's Eve in New York.
A version can be found on the dance simulation game Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova. This version is by "Beatbox vs DJ Miko".
The orchestrated Louis Armstrong version was used at the happy ending of Madeline.
This song was used at the beginning of Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
It was also used in the end of The Longest Day episode of Home Improvement where Tim thinks of all the memories he's had with Randy.
A cover performed by Donna Burke, in the English version, and Louis Armstrong in the Japanese version, was also played near the end of the episode, "What a Wonderful World", of the animated Japanese show, Vandread.
It was performed by 4-year-old Kaitlyn Maher on America's Got Talent in 2008.
Industrial metal band Ministry (band) did a cover to this song as well, keeping with the sweet music of the original until halfway through the song when it becomes much more energetic and metal. It can be found on their 2008 album Cover Up (Ministry album).
Sticky Fingaz made a version of What a Wonderful World that has changed lyrics talking about the life and dangers of living in the hood. It's on his album Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones.
It was used for a commercial advertising the Disney theme parks and resorts including Disneyland, Walt Disney World in Florida,Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Resort Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and the Disney Vacation Club
This song was used as an intro for The Wonderful World of Disney
The British satirical series Spitting Image did their own version of What a Wonderful World at the end of an episode as a protest about the state of the world and humanity in general by changing the title of the song to 'We Ruined the World'. This version was sung by a puppet of similar appearance to Louis Armstrong to images of war and environmental destruction.
It was also played as part of America's largest fireworks display ever during the 250th Birthday celebration for the city of Pittsburgh on October 4, 2008.
A parody of the song was played in an episode of the TV show Chowder.
The Joey Ramone version also played on the 15th episode of the second season of the WB series Gilmore Girls.
On the sixth series of The X Factor, a reality singing competition in the UK, finalist Stacey Solomon sang the song for her successful audition and again in the series final. She eventually finished third overall.
It was used in the movie 12 monkeys.
Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia covered this song with The Jerry Garcia Band during live performances; it appears on Pure Jerry series #7 as an encore along with special guest Bruce Hornsby. Joan Baez has also played the song during her live performances.
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