The Atlantic

Why I Made a New Version of ‘What a Wonderful World’

I revisited the Louis Armstrong standard and found lyrics that help put our challenges into perspective.
Source: Bettmann / Getty

When Louis Armstrong recorded “What a Wonderful World” in 1967, America was in upheaval. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and Martin Luther King Jr. was leading a battle for civil rights. The Summer of Love converged on San Francisco, and artists like Joni Mitchell and The Doors provided the soundtrack to a movement opposing the government, the ongoing war, and the consumerist values of the times. Deep unrest spanning race, class, and political lines was an everyday reality of American life.

In Pops’s time there were clearer boundaries. In fact, at the time that he recorded the song, he was living

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