On Air Now
The Smooth Sanctuary at 7 with Gary Vincent 7pm - 10pm
8 August 2018, 17:17 | Updated: 2 October 2018, 20:51
Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World' is one of the most timeless songs of all time.
Released in 1968, it remains one of the most relaxing and beautiful pop songs ever made, but what is it's backstory? Who wrote it and how did Louis get involved?
Here are all the big and most interesting facts behind the classic song...
The song was written by Bob Thiele and George Weiss.
Thiele was a producer for ABC Records, while Weiss was a songwriter who helped create the hit version of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' among others.
'What a Wonderful World' is simply about appreciating the beauty of your surroundings.
In the song, Louis sings of seeing various events and natural wonders that make him smile, while also perhaps lamenting the passage of time, noting: "I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they'll learn much more than I'll never know".
Weiss was also said to be inspired by Armstrong's ability to bring people of different races together.
Although Weiss says he wrote the tune specifically for Armstrong, it was offered to Tony Bennett first, who turned it down.
However, Bennett went on to cover the song several times, including a 2003 duet with k.d. lang.
Although it became the song most associated with Louis Armstrong, it wasn't indicative of his music, as he didn't play his famous saxophone, and it wasn't in his usual jazz style.
The song was not initially a hit in America, where it sold less than 1,000 copies because ABC Records head Larry Newton did not like the song and chose not to promote it.
However, it was a huge success in the UK, reaching number one and becoming the biggest-selling single of 1968. The song made Louis Armstrong the oldest male to top the UK Singles Chart. Tom Jones later broke this record in 2009.
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. This time, it reached a new peak of number 32.
Many artists over the years have recorded the song. Including:
- Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua (a UK number 1 hit in 2007)
- Nick Cave and Shane McGowan
- Celine Dion
- Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder
- Cliff Richard
- Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (a medley with 'Over the Rainbow', see above)