First Listen: Alexander O'Neal takes on a classic for charity

 

(December 17, 2020) Louis Armstrong released the song “What a Wonderful World” in 1968. The song’s politically aspirational and idealistic lyrics (and this was a political song) were at odds with what was happening in the world in 1968 – most notably assassinations, racial and political unrest and the Vietnam War. Armstrong, along with producer Bob Thiele and songwriter George David Weiss, hoped the image of environmental conservation and peace and harmony among men would serve as a call for humanity to become a better version of itself. The message fell flat at the time because it was so dissonant from what was going on in the streets and because the suits at ABC Records didn’t support it. History has been kinder to the tune, which reached the Billboard Top 40 in 1988 thanks to being featured in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam.” Listeners in other countries seemed to be more open to the message in 1968.

 

(December 17, 2020) Louis Armstrong released the song “What a Wonderful World” in 1968. The song’s politically aspirational and idealistic lyrics (and this was a political song) were at odds with what was happening in the world in 1968 – most notably assassinations, racial and political unrest and the Vietnam War. Armstrong, along with producer Bob Thiele and songwriter George David Weiss, hoped the image of environmental conservation and peace and harmony among men would serve as a call for humanity to become a better version of itself. The message fell flat at the time because it was so dissonant from what was going on in the streets and because the suits at ABC Records didn’t support it. History has been kinder to the tune, which reached the Billboard Top 40 in 1988 thanks to being featured in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam.” Listeners in other countries seemed to be more open to the message in 1968. The song went to Number 1 in the United Kingdom and charted high in other countries.

The year 2020 might seem to be an odd year for a vocalist like R&B crooner Alexander O’Neal to render his take on the song. We’re dealing with many of the same problems that beset America in 1968, and then tripled our troubles by adding the economic woes of 1929 and a pandemic, circa 1918. But O’Neal brings the message and channels Armstrong’s vocals on the song and accompanying video for “What a Wonderful World” for a good cause. O’Neal is collaborating with The Salvation Army and Homeless Worldwide to raise
money and awareness during the Holiday season in hopes of helping those facing homelessness and poverty. O’Neal notes that those issues are linked to depression and mental illness that have become even greater problems because of the upheaval caused by COVID-19 and the associated recession.

On a personal note, “What a Wonderful World” will be an excellent soundtrack for our post-pandemic world when vaccines allow us to take off our masks, shake the hands of the friends that we love and watch the children play. Check out O’Neal singing “What a Wonderful World” here and make a donation if you can.

By Howard Dukes

Alexander O'Neal - "What A Wonderful World"

 
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