'What a Wonderful World' milestone celebrated at Louis Armstrong House Museum
A milestone for a beloved song is being celebrated at the former Queens home of the music legend who sang it. NY1's Ruschell Boone reports.
Louis Armstrong had countless hits across his storied career, but none more popular than the enduring jazz classic "What a Wonderful World."
Armstrong didn't write the song, but his handwritten version of it is on display at the Louis Armstrong House Museum as part of a special exhibition marking its 50th anniversary.
The exhibit also features photos, sheet music from the recording and other related artifacts for fans to enjoy.
"For me to see it is completely wonderful," said one museum visitor. "I mean, it really is great."
"It shows how a song has a longer life even than the composer or the singer," said another.
Recorded in 1967, "What a Wonderful World" celebrated peace and love at a time when the country was badly divided by the Vietnam War and protests. It was originally a flop in the U.S. because of a lack of support from Armstrong's record label. Overseas, it was a different story. It went to number 1 on the U.K. charts and was popular in South Africa.
Museum officials say he didn't like the song at first. He wasn't thrilled with the music, but once he saw the words, the song became personal.
"He realized that it was all he felt about Corona, his neighborhood," said Adriana Filstrup of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. "So that's why he choose to sing this song, to make it his."
Armstrong singled out the the lines "I hear babies cry, I watch them grow, They'll learn much more than I'll ever know, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world," as reminding him of how much he loved the people in Corona and of how much they loved him back.
Armstrong and his wife Lucille bought this modest house on 107th Street in 1943, and he lived here until his death in 1971. It is now a national landmark.
In 1987, 16 years after he died, What a Wonderful World got a second wind when it was used in the Robin Williams film "Good Morning, Vietnam." This time, it rose to No. 32 on the Billboard singles chart.
Over the years, many artists have covered the song. But the appeal of Armstrong's original recording, rooted in the Queens community he loved, endures.