Meaning of “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

Written By Michael Miller

Michael is a music teacher and professional cellist. He loves uncovering the deeper meaning of popular songs.

“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong is an ode to life’s simple beauties. The lyrics talk about the colors of the world, human connections, and the cycle of life, painting a picture of appreciation and wonder. Armstrong’s raspy voice and the song’s easy tempo make you slow down and actually see the “trees of green” and “red roses” in your life. The song is a nudge—a reminder—to look at the world through the lens of gratitude. Written during the turbulent times of the 1960s, it serves as an antidote to cynicism and despair.

Need a pick-me-up? Keep reading for an in-depth dive into why “What a Wonderful World” continues to touch our souls even decades after its release.

“What a Wonderful World” Lyrics Meaning

This classic starts with Armstrong observing natural elements. “I see trees of green, red roses too.” Right off the bat, it emphasizes the beauty of the natural world. The repetition of “I see” implies a focus, a mindfulness about the world that many of us often overlook.

Next, the lyrics go, “I see them bloom, for me and you.” This line is especially poignant. It suggests that the beauty of the world is not just a happenstance. It’s a gift, “for me and you.” It’s both personal and universal.

“And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” This refrain is the song’s soul. It’s a pause, a moment of reflection, as if Armstrong is absorbing the beauty and bottling it up in those words.

Then, we move to the skies and clouds, “The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.” Here, Armstrong finds divinity in both day and night. There’s no room for negativity. Even the dark is “sacred,” implying that everything has its place and value.

The song takes a social turn as Armstrong describes, “The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by.” This is an embrace of diversity and a nod to the intrinsic connection between the human race and the world we inhabit.

“I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘How do you do?’ They’re really saying, I love you.” This line adds another layer—deciphering the unspoken but understood language of human interaction. It’s about seeing past formalities, recognizing genuine emotion behind everyday exchanges.

The song wraps up with a focus on the continuum of life. “I hear babies cry, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know.” This is Armstrong acknowledging that while he might not be around forever, the cycle of life and learning continues, and that in itself is “wonderful.”

Why Was “What a Wonderful World” Written?

The 1960s were a tumultuous time. Think civil rights movement, Vietnam War protests, and a world grappling with change. Louis Armstrong, the man with the golden trumpet and gravelly voice, decided to contribute something different—a sanctuary of optimism.

Bob Thiele and George David Weiss penned the song specifically for Armstrong. Why? Because they knew he could deliver this message like no one else. Armstrong was a prominent African-American artist breaking racial barriers during these trying times. His voice carried weight, yet it was filled with hope and love.

The song’s intent was to offer a counter-narrative to the prevalent societal cynicism. Armstrong’s take was not just a song but an emotional experience that encouraged listeners to find beauty and hope, even when the world seemed to be spiraling into chaos.