Song Spotlight: "What a Wonderful World"

What a Wonderful World - Song Spotlight |
  • Mood: Relaxed, Romantic
  • Themes: Love/Romance, School, Lack of Academic Knowledge
  • Tempo: Relaxed walking speed
  • Genre/style: 1950s soul

Among my favorite songs to celebrate school is Sam Cooke’s song “(What A) Wonderful World.” It starts with these words:

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

bloThese words were originally penned under the pseudonym Barbara Campbell, who was Sam Cooke’s high school sweetheart. (Now everybody say it: “Awwww!”) Along with songwriters Lou Adler and Herb Alpert, Cooke published “(What a) Wonderful World” in 1959, and his version of the song climbed to #12 on the Billboard charts in 1960. After Cooke’s death in 1964, Herman’s Hermits released another popular recording of this song, which reached #2 on the U.S. charts. This song has also been performed by artists as diverse as Art Garfunkel, Johnny Nash, Rod Stewart, and Rockapella.

Of course, this song is a great springboard for discussions about school subjects. You can ask seniors about their favorite subjects in school as well as the ones they didn’t like much. You can even ask about specific subjects (“Who doesn’t know much about biology or trigonometry?”) This song is also a love song, of course, so you can ask older adults about sweethearts from their school days, or when they knew that they loved their husband/wife.

Musically, this song’s steady, relaxed tempo makes it appropriate for accompanying instrument playing or as a background for expressive movement to music.

This song could also work well in a songwriting exercise for people with memory loss, especially early to mid-stage dementia. Try filling in the blanks to these lyrics:

Don’t remember much                                        

Don’t remember                                                   

Don’t remember much                                        

Don’t remember much                                        

But I do know that I love you

And I know                                                             

What a wonderful world I see

For people who are dealing with the emotional difficulty of experiencing early memory loss and knowing it will only get worse, this could help them acknowledge the memory loss and reaffirm the important memories they still have, especially the emotional memories of who cares for them. (As always, no exercise or song is right for everyone. Please use your judgment on whether this activity is appropriate for your loved one.)

What do you think? Does this song bring back memories of your school days? Please feel free to comment below.

This post is part of an occasional series on special songs to share with your loved ones. For more song spotlights, click here.


  1. Kat Fulton on August 29, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Crazy! I saw the title and was thinking of Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World. Well, it IS a wonderful world isn’t it! =) Thanks for posting this great exercise, Rachelle!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on August 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks, Kat! Yes, Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” is an awesome song, too – one that I use frequently as well.

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