One of the most beloved songs of all-time debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 on this day (February 20) in 1988 – “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.
“What A Wonderful World” was initially offered to Tony Bennett, who decided not to record it, and then it was offered to Louis Armstrong, the Great Satchmo, who recorded it in the summer of the year I was born, 1967. It was released in October that year, and turned out to be a big hit for the New Orleans Jazz trumpeter, composer and singer – but, strangely enough, not here in America. It went to No. 1 in the U.K. and Austria, and the Top 10 in at least 6 other countries. But, in the U.S, it stopped at No. 47. Until 1988…
The brilliant 1987 Robin Williams film, GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, was set in 1965, and though the filmmakers wanted to be authentic with the music as much as possible (using songs from the likes of The Beach Boys, Martha and the Vandellas, James Brown, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, Them featuring Van Morrison, and even Ray Conniff and Lawrence Welk), they took a bit of a liberty with “What A Wonderful World” (released 2 years after the film was set) because of how well it fit into the film.
Because of GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, “What A Wonderful World” got lots of renewed interest, so much so that it was re-released as a single in 1988 and surpassed its original No. 47 peak on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, reaching No. 32 in early April 1988, nearly 17 years after Louis passed away at the age of 69. It also hit No. 1 in Australia and the Top 10 in Belgium, Holland and New Zealand.
Since GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, “What A Wonderful World” has appeared in a myriad of films and television shows, including TWELVE MONKEYS, THE SIMPSONS, THE MENTALIST and TWIN PEAKS. It’s also been covered many times, with notable covers by Roy Clark, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder, Katie Melua and an amazing version by Joey Ramone, which was featured in the last episode of Denis Leary’s THE JOB and Michael Moore’s BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE.
Like many of the songs that appeared in GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, I had never known of “What A Wonderful World” until the film came out. It’s been with me (and a part of me) for 99% of my adult life. Even though I don’t play it as often as I should, I know it’s always there when I need it. What a wonderful world it’s been to have this song in my life for many years, and many years to come.
♫ Oh yeah… ♪