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
ReleasedSeptember 1, 1967
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, had set himself against 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[edit]

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 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 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.

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[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

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


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[32] Gold 45,000double-dagger
Italy (FIMI)[33] Gold 15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[34] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[35] Gold 500,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

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" by Katie Melua
ReleasedDecember 3, 2007
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 the song 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]

Upon its release, the single debuted at number 45 on the Scottish Singles Chart on the week of December 9, 2007.[37] 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."[36] The duet was later included on her 2008 compilation album The Katie Melua Collection.


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2007–2008) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[38] 24
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[39] 6
Poland (LP3)[40] 5
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[41] 19
Scotland (OCC)[42] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[43] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2007) Position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[44] 58

Other notable versions[edit]

Appearances in film, television and others[edit]


Title Performer Year Source
Good Morning, Vietnam Louis Armstrong 1987 1
Little Marines Louis Armstrong 1991 1
Ciao, Professore! Louis Armstrong 1992 1
The Kennedy Years (JFK Remembered) Louis Armstrong 1993 1
12 Monkeys Louis Armstrong 1995 1
Wrestling with Alligators Louis Armstrong 1998 1
Madeline Louis Armstrong 1998 1
Meet Joe Black Louis Armstrong 1998 1
Bowling for Columbine Louis Armstrong
Joey Ramone (end credits)
2002 [53]
Freaky Friday Joey Ramone 2003 1
Swing Girls Louis Armstrong 2004 1
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (teaser trailer only) Louis Armstrong 2005 [54]
Chicken Little (teaser trailer only) Louis Armstrong 2005 [55]
Madagascar Louis Armstrong 2005 1
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay Louis Armstrong 2008 1
Head Over Heels Louis Armstrong 2010 1
Guzaarish Hritik Roshan 2010
New Year's Eve Louis Armstrong 2011 1
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
(slightly different version of the song)
Dwayne Johnson 2012
Back to the Sea Louis Armstrong 2012 1
Mein Salzburg Louis Armstrong 2015 1
Un gallo con muchos huevos Louis Armstrong 2015 1
Finding Dory Louis Armstrong 2016 1
Range 15 Louis Armstrong 2016 1
Geostorm (teaser trailer only) Sharon Van Etten & Juggernaut Kid 2017
Arjun Reddy Louis Armstrong 2017 [56]
Pokémon Detective Pikachu (teaser trailer only) Louis Armstrong 2019 [57]
Dolittle (teaser trailer) Reuben and the Dark 2020 [58]


Series Episode Performer Year Source
The Muppet Show Don Knotts (#2.1) Rowlf (Jim Henson) 1977 2
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1.6 Louis Armstrong 1981 1
Moonlighting A Womb with a View Louis Armstrong 1988 1
The Green Man Louis Armstrong 1990 1
Family Matters The Mama Who Came to Dinner (Pilot) Louis Armstrong 1989 1
Twin Peaks #2.7 Louis Armstrong 1990 1
Get A Life Clip Show Louis Armstrong 1992
Florida Lady Lauf dem Leben nicht davon Louis Armstrong 1994 1
Vamp Louis Armstrong 1991 1
Cybill Cybill Discovers the Meaning of Life Louis Armstrong 1995 1
Home Improvement The Longest Day Louis Armstrong 1996
Oki Doki Doc Christmas Musical Special Cast 1996
The King of Queens Head First Louis Armstrong 1998 1
Hinter Gittern – Der Frauenknast Hahn im Korb Louis Armstrong 1999 1
Lust & Sühne Louis Armstrong 2001 1
Racheengel Louis Armstrong 2001 1
Fährte aufgenommen Louis Armstrong 2004 1
Gilmore Girls Rory's Birthday Parties Louis Armstrong 2000 1
Dawson's Creek Hopeless Louis Armstrong 2001 1
The Century of the Self Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering Louis Armstrong 2002 1
Die Lugners #1.3 Louis Armstrong 2003 1
#1.9 Louis Armstrong 2003 1
House, MD DNR Louis Armstrong 2005 1
Life on Mars #1.6 Louis Armstrong 2006 1
20 to 1 Greatest Songs of All Time Louis Armstrong 2006 1
Supernatural What Is And What Should Never Be Joey Ramone 2007
The Simpsons The Good, the Sad and the Drugly Louis Armstrong 2009 1
Every Man's Dream The Clarks 2015 1
So You Think You Can Dance (Canada) Top 8 Perform Louis Armstrong 2009 1
An Idiot Abroad Karl Comes Home Louis Armstrong 2010 1
The Mentalist Blinking Red Light Louis Armstrong 2011 1
Inspector George Gently The Lost Child Louis Armstrong 2012 1
Strictly Come Dancing Week 9 Results Louis Armstrong 2014 1
Broad City What a Wonderful World Louis Armstrong 2014 1
Childhood's End #1.1 Joseph William Morgan 2015
MythBusters The Reunion Special Louis Armstrong 2016 1
The OA Champion Sharon Van Etten & Juggernaut Kid 2016 1
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Mid-way to Mid-Town Louis Armstrong 2018
Salvation From Russia, With Love Louis Armstrong 2018
Young Sheldon #1.18 Joey Ramone 2017
Bosch Some Measure of Justice Chris Botti & Mark Knopfler 2020
Dark Das Paradies Soap&Skin 2020


  • Internet Movie Database[59]
  • Jim Henson's Red Book[60]


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External links[edit]