Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Brendan Briggs

Brendan is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. In 2022, he released his first album "Dive" under the name "Arctotherium".

“What A Wonderful World” is a masterpiece about appreciating the beauty of our universe and our experience. The lyrics describe the charm of Earth’s scenery and manage to touch on the magnificence of love. The underlying message is to encourage all of us to appreciate the good things available to us every day.

Songwriters Bob Thiele and George David Weiss created the track, and it was Louis Armstrong’s iconic performance that brought it to life. The 1967 recording was finished after a long and upsetting night, but the struggle seems to have added something magical to the tape.

In this song, we’ll take a look at these beautiful lyrics and discuss why they are so impactful. We’ll also dive into the history of the track and how it relates to this timeless music. Let’s begin!

“What a Wonderful World” Lyrics Meaning

The genius of this song is that anyone can understand it. This is because the lyrics describe things we all have access to every day. The song begins by painting pictures of natural scenery.

The singer (Armstrong) sees “trees of green” and “roses of red” that bloom for himself and the listener. This is meant to convey the idea that the natural world is created to be admired – to spark wonder. It does spark this wonder in the singer, and he proudly states what a “wonderful world” it is.

He continues praising nature, observing the “clouds of white,” “bright blessed day,” and “dark sacred night.” Not only is the environment itself beautiful, but so is the fact that we are alive and able to experience it. That is what makes the non-living night “sacred.” It is being experienced in living minds.

Now, the song moves into a second phase. The lyrics transition from describing objects that people observe to describing human beings themselves. For example, the “colors of the rainbow” are also “on the faces” of people.

The most important part of human beings in this song is our ability to love. When the singer sees “friends shaking hands,” he understands that it’s equivalent to saying, “I love you.” Even though it might be hidden sometimes, the lyrics paint human beings as loving and good creatures. 

What’s the best example of this goodness? Maybe it’s our ability to love and appreciate children. The singer hears “babies crying” and watches them grow. He has hope for them to “learn more” and blossom into the next generation. This verse is a celebration of the ways life always takes new forms.

In a world that can sometimes be so dark, songs like this are very important. “What A Wonderful World” isn’t ironic, cynical, sad, political, or self-centered. It’s about looking beyond yourself to see something greater than us.

Simply put, this song is an alluring poem about the joys of being alive. It encourages us to count our blessings, appreciate beauty, and love our neighbor. What a wonderful world, indeed.

The Story Behind “What a Wonderful World”

Songwriters Bob Thiele and George David Weiss can take credit for bringing us this classic. Eventually, due to the suggestion of producer Artie Butler, the track was offered to Louis Armstrong.

Armstrong was already a well-established musical powerhouse and had recently managed to hit the charts despite the rock and roll craze of the 1960s. In 1967, when the now famous recording was produced, he had just signed to ABC records with high hopes for the future.

According to multiple sources, the night of the studio session was anything but smooth. For one, ABC records president Larry Newton tried to forcibly stop the session and had to be physically locked out. His reaction was probably so negative because he was hoping for another fast-tempo hit instead of a slower song.

This wasn’t the only issue. Noise from nearby train whistles set the recording progress back two times. This was significant because the song’s orchestration meant that many people were involved in production. After a long night that became an early morning (6:00 AM), the track was finished.

In order to make sure that the orchestra members were fairly paid, Armstrong reportedly took only $250 for his work. Perhaps he understood the meaning of the song deeply, even though he didn’t write the lyrics.

If that $250 was really all he took, he might be one of the most underpaid people in history. Despite the fact that Larry Newton suppressed the song when it was originally released, it ended up exploding when it was featured in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987). As a result, it was re-released as a single and began hitting the charts 20 years too late.

“What A Wonderful World” was inducted into the Grammy hall of fame in 1999 and has been critically praised as well as commercially successful. It was named one of the 500 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone, and I can’t help but agree with that.

For such a pleasant tune, there was a lot of controversy going on behind the scenes. However, the beauty of the song couldn’t be held back for long.