Music critic Dave Marsh called Louis Armstrong “the greatest musical talent this country has produced.” MA Some musical scholars say that popular music as we know it today wouldn’t exist without the vocal techniques he pioneered in the 1920s. TB Through that decade and the next, “Satchmo” charted more than 50 U.S. pop hits. From the 1940s through ‘60s, he mustered less than half the chart singles as during his first two decades, but certainly hadn’t disappeared. He even pulled off a #1 hit in 1964 with “Hello, Dolly!,” a feat which made Armstrong the oldest artist in the U.S. to land the top spot, improbably dethroning the Beatles’ fourteen-week run on top with three consecutive #1’s. However, it was one of his last hits, recorded three years before he died, which proved the most immortal.
“World” hit #1 in the UK in 1968, which gave him the distinction of being the oldest artist (66) to top the British charts. TB In the U.S., the song didn’t even dent the Billboard Hot 100 – until twenty years later. The song’s initial failure could be attributed to tight radio formatting at the time, but also because Larry Newton at ABC Records hated the song and wouldn’t promote it. TB However, the song regained life after being featured in the 1987 movie Good Morning, Vietnam. It went top 40 on the U.S. pop charts and reached #7 on the adult contemporary charts, besting its original #12 peak. “It sounds at least as modern as anything on the charts in 1988.” MA
The song’s “saccharine, improbably sweet view of life on earth” MC could justify Newton and other detractors. However, Armstrong’s “pained gravel voice pitted against lush strings” MA also evokes a “peaceful aura that makes it a perfect antidote to harsh reality,” MC making for “one of the warmest, wittiest specimens of musical humanity.” MA
- one of the top 100 songs of the rock era
- one of the top 1000 songs of all time
- Grammy Hall of Fame
- one of the top 100 songs of the 1960s
- one of the top 100 jazz songs of all time
Resources and Related Links:
- Louis Armstrong’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
- the DMDB page for “What a Wonderful World”
- MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 614.
- MC Neil McCormack (3/13/09). Telegraph.co.uk “100 Greatest Songs of All Time”
- TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 97.