“What a Wonderful World” is considered one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It was written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss in 1967 and was recorded that same year by Louis Armstrong, possibly the greatest American musician of the 20th Century.
It was meant to be a song of quiet hope in a time when the world was in turmoil and everything seemed to be coming apart. In other words, it was a time like ours. According to some accounts, the writers offered the song to Armstrong because of his ability to bring people of different races and backgrounds together.
The song was a dud at first, but soon gained popularity and is now considered a classic. It’s a reminder of what’s really important in the world, and a reminder that we are all human beings and we need to care for each other.
Armstrong became the living embodiment of jazz in his lifetime. He was a black man from the South, and he saw and felt a lot of ugliness in his life. He saw the worst of Jim Crow segregation, and the evils of racism. However, he also never gave up trying to bring people together through his music. His voice was gravelly, but he sang with his soul and put his emotions into every tune.
What you may not know is Armstrong recorded a spoken introduction to “What a Wonderful World” around 1970. In this introduction, he explains his reasons why he thinks it’s a wonderful world. He refers to himself by one of his nicknames, “Pops.” It went something like this:
“Some of the young folks come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Pops! What do you mean it’s a wonderful world? How about them wars going on all over the place? Do you think they’re wonderful? And how about hunger and pollution? They ain’t so wonderful either.’
Well, now you listen to ol’ Pops for a minute.
It seems to me the world ain’t so bad, it’s what we’re doing to it. All I’m saying is it would be a wonderful world if we would only give it a chance.
Love, baby, love. That’s the answer. See, if more folks loved each other, that would solve a whole lot of problems, and the world would be a better place.”
That’s what ol’ Pops would say.”
This is wisdom for the ages. Armstrong recognized people needed to come together, and the only force that could do that was love. He knew and understood that, for all the ugliness he had seen in his life, that love was the only thing that could change things for the better.
These days, Americans seem to have forgotten how to love each other. We prefer to yell and scream, to best our chests in self-righteous anger, and denounce those who disagree with us as evil and worthy only of being wiped from the face of the earth. There are people with legitimate grievances against the system, but if the anger over those grievances isn’t tempered with love, it can only lead to destruction.
We can come together. We can settle our differences. We can make this a more just nation and a more just world. However, we won’t be able to do that if we hate each other and see each other as objects to be dominated and destroyed.
Maybe we could all stand to listen to ol’ Pops for a minute.