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What A Wonderful World, A Song of A Dream

Jazz music is one of music genres considered as a high class music now. But, do you know that it was a low class music? Jazz music is a mix of blues, ragtime, brass, band music, and dance music. Those musics were created and popularized by African American musicians. So, Jazz was invented by African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century. To be precise is around 1920s, as it is an era of Harlem Renaissance - an era when Black culture started to rise. Then, was Jazz a high class music before? No. The roots of Jazz was even in the slave musics before the Civil War era (pre 1865). So, it is clear then that Jazz was a low class musics. So, how could Jazz raise as a high class music.

In 1917, Jazz became popular not by its black musicians but by a band namely the Original Dixeland Jass which members were all white. In addition, the band debuted in New York. The uniqueness of Jazz captured all the attention. Then, more Jazz great musicians started to emerge including Louis Armstrong.

Born to very poor family, Armstrong had a rough young life. Dropping out from school at the age of eleven, he chose to pursue his musics career. After a long struggle in music industry, he finally became a prominent figure in Jazz musics. He influenced Jazz performers much. Jazz was performed by band initially. But after Louis Armstrong came into the spot, he promoted a solo performance to Jazz. A complete biography and career of Louis Armstrong can be found in many sites. So, let's analyze one of Louis Armstrong's songs entitled What A Wonderful World.

Louis Amstrong - What a Wonderful World.mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine


Written by Bob Thiele and recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1968, the song depicted the life after the rights for African American were finally guaranteed by US Constitution with the Civil Rights Acts 1965. But in fact, the Acts did not change everything as easy as turning your palm hand. Racism still happened. To know more about the racism issue right after the Act was passed, I recommend you to watch a movie entitled the Secret Life of Bees. That will help you a lot to understand the sociocultural background. Now, get back to the song. The lyric is below:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, sayin' "how do you do?"
They're really sayin' "I love you"

I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
They'll learn much more, than I'll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Yes I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Oh yeah

Denotatively, the song tells about the beauty of the world. But is that so? Was the world for African Americans "beautiful" in 1960s? No. their lives were still in the shadow of racism. They were still treated unequal. For example in these lines: I see friends shaking hands, sayin' "how do you do?" They're really sayin' "I love you". Pay attention closely to the word really. The world really here means that what the singer sees is not a dream. The green tree, the red rose, the blue sky, the white cloud, and friends shaking hands are all true. But are those true in reality? Or are those only true in the song? Yes, they are all true in the song. In other words, the song tells a world that the writer and the singer wanted to live because the world they lived on was not like that. Pay attention also to the ways Louis Armstrong sing the phrase "what a wonderful world". He sings it as if he regretted that the world he lived on was not like the world he sang.

The song also tells about the hopes for the future generation of Americans. "I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow They'll learn much more, than I'll ever know". Babies are symbols for future. Symbols for the next generation of America. Symbols for the next leader. And also symbols for hopes. The tenses is also changed into future that indicates the hopes for a better future. The next generation will learn about more that Louis will never know. What Louis, and his generations never knew is about equality and respect for each other. What they never learned is about opportunity for all. That is why, the way he sang the phrase "what a wonderful world" is different. The last phrase is sung in a rising intonation in the end. It may imply his high hopes for the next generation of America. And it turns out that finally nowadays America becomes a wonderful world like Louis Armstrong dream of.

References:

Jane, Garry. "Jazz". Encyclopedia of African American Society. 2005. SAGE Publication. 14 Apr 2010. http://www.sage-ereference.com/africanamericansociety/Article_n352.html

Louis Armstrong. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong

What A Wonderful World. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_a_Wonderful_World

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