Sam Cooke

Wonderful World

Composed by Herb Alpert / Lou Adler / Sam Cooke

Song Review by

One of his few recorded songs not penned completely by Sam Cooke himself, "Wonderful World" found the singer teaming up with the legendary production/writing/publishing team of Lou Adler and Herb Alpert, the duo that also wrote -- under the catch-all pseudonym Barbara Campbell -- "Only Sixteen" for Cooke.

As with other early pop crossover songs from Cooke (who became a star first in the gospel genre), "Wonderful World" is firmly in the tradition of Tin Pan Alley and Brill Building songwriting, with a clever lyric that sticks closely to a metaphorical theme: "Don't know much about geography/Don't know much trigonometry/Don't know much about algebra/Don't know what a slide rule is for/But I do know one and one is two/And if this one could be with you/What a wonderful, wonderful world this would be." It also resembles the above songwriting traditions with an embrace of classic American pop, jazz, Latin rhythms, and the blues. But unlike "You Send Me" and "Cupid," which downplayed Cooke's gospel tendencies, "Wonderful World" has at least as much of an R&B quotient as other elements -- due in no small part to Cooke's tastefully soulful delivery. His performance is still as smooth as on those other tracks, but there is little doubt that Cooke is a church-trained soul singer on "Wonderful World."

Recorded in 1959 -- one of his last for the Keen label -- the production is typical, for Cooke's recordings of the era: The Latin beat, played with a jaunty tempo, is strummed out on an acoustic guitar, drummed with brushes, and supported by an upright bass. The drums, though, are more insistent than on many of Cooke's early recordings. The sound -- the beat and arrangement, in particular -- presaged many of the Brill Building-era songs of the early '60s, like Bert Berns' songs for the Drifters and the Isley Brothers. "Wonderful World" was a million-selling Top 20 hit for Cooke.

Much as they did with other covers, Art Garfunkel and James Taylor discovered and accented the song's underlying self-deprecating melancholy, drastically slowing down the tempo and adding new harmonies, via a weaving vocal arrangement with Paul Simon for Garfunkel's 1977 album Watermark. The album did not include the song initially; it was added after the first single off of the album tanked. It was a success, a Top 20 song for Garfunkel. Herman's Hermits scored a huge Top Ten hit with an overly bouncy "Wonderful World." Their's sounds like it is already a wonderful world, with no sense of the longing desire of the narrator.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1958 Get Back Records
The Wonderful World of Sam Cooke 1960 Doxy Records
The Best of Sam Cooke [RCA] 1962 Hallmark
The Unforgettable Sam Cooke 1966 RCA Camden Classics
No Image 1970 RCA
No Image 1976 RCA
National Lampoon's Animal House [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 1978
Various Artists
MCA 2:05
The Man and His Music 1986 RCA 2:04
The Rock 'N' Roll Era: 1960 1987
Various Artists
2:09
Unforgettable: 18 Classic Songs of Love 1988
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:07
Giants of Soul [Movieplay] 1990
Various Artists
Movieplay Music 2:07
No Image 1993 Charly Records 2:06
Radio City Love Songs, Vol. 3 1994
Various Artists
Columbia
100% Summer Jazz 1995
Various Artists
Alex 2:07
Kose Rock, Vol. 2: The Most Beautiful Lovesongs 1995
Various Artists
Arcade Music 2:06
Entspanne! 1996
Various Artists
Best of Sam Cooke [1996] 1996 Hypnm 2:07
Greatest Hits 1998 RCA/Legacy 2:08
Great Love Album 1998
Various Artists
Goldies
The Great Sam Cooke 1999 Goldies 2:07
David Copperfield: The Sound of Magic 2000
Various Artists
Warner Bros. 2:06
No Image 2000 RCA 2:05
All Hits 2000 Remember Records 2:07
No Image 2000 Castle Music Ltd. 2:06
Film Hits [BMG] 2001
Various Artists
BMG
The Best of Sam Cooke [Paradiso] 2002 Paradiso 2:08
Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964 2003 ABKCO Records 2:09
1960 British Hit Parade: Britain's Greatest Hits, Vol. 9, Pt. 2 2011
Various Artists
Acrobat / Acrobat Music 2:08
Wonderful World: The Very Best of Sam Cooke 1957-60 2011 Jasmine / Jasmine Records 2:07
No Image 2011
Various Artists
Fantastic Voyage
100 Greatest 50s & 60s Hits 2011
Various Artists
Audiosonic 2:13
Wonderful World 2011 Delta Leisure Group / Performance 2:06
Rock 'n' Roll Era: Rock 'n' Roll Legends 2011
Various Artists
Crimson / Crimson Productions
100 Party Hits of the 60's 2011
Various Artists
Audiosonic 2:09
Here Comes Summer [One Day] 2012
Various Artists
One Day Music 2:07
Love Songs: Happy Mothers Day 2012
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 2:08
The Singles Collection 2013 Not Now Music
50 Perfect Wedding Songs 2013
Various Artists
Carter Lane/OMiP 2:09
Lemon Popsicles and Strawberry Milkshakes: Shakin' All Over 2013
Various Artists
Go / Go Entertainment 2:09
No Image 2013 Jazz Elite S.P. 2:08
101 Hits: Greatest Love Songs 2013
Various Artists
DLG Digital 2:06
Sweethearts and Stolen Kisses: From the Movies 2014
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:07
The Greatest Ever... Love Songs [Bellevue] 2014
Various Artists
Bellevue / Wienerworld 2:10
Lou Adler: A Musical History 2014
Various Artists
Ace 2:07
Soul: Wonderful World 2014
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 2:08
The Broons Jukebox Favourites 2014
Various Artists
Music Kitchen 2:07
The  Complete Solo Singles, As & Bs, 1957-62 2016 Acrobat 2:06
Greatest Hits 2016 10Ten Media / Zebralution 2:03
100% Love Songs
Various Artists
101 Hits from the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame
Various Artists
DLG Digital 2:06
No Image
Various Artists
Must Have Records 2:05
1960 British Hit Parade, Vol. 2: July to December
Various Artists
Future Noise Music 2:10
300 Hits: Soul
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 2:08
No Image Big 3 / Proper
American Classic Oldies, Vol. 1
Various Artists
Cherished Records 2:07
Big Box of Rock 'n' Roll
Various Artists
Floating World 2:07
Cruisin' Classics 1956-1961
Various Artists
Not Now Music
Golden Oldies Hit Series, Vol. 3
Various Artists
Forever Classic Hits 2:04
Golden Oldies: The Soundtrack of Your Life (100 Classic Radio Hits)
Various Artists
HLI 2:10
Hot Hundred: Hits of the 60s
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:05
Hot Hundred: Songs for Mum
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:06
I Just Love Soul Music
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:04
I Just Love a Lazy Sunday Morning
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:08
Love and Marriage:  101 Classic Songs for Living and Loving Together
Various Artists
HLI 2:05
My Funny Valentine: 100 Tracks for Valentines Day
Various Artists
HLI 2:05
Oldies Hits A to Z, Vol. 9
Various Artists
Forever Classic Hits 2:02
No Image
Various Artists
Puzzled Records 2:05
Puppy Love: 101 Classic Love Songs
Various Artists
HLI 2:05
School Days [Traditions Alive]
Various Artists
One Day Music / Traditions Alive 2:07
Songs You Heard on the Telly
Various Artists
Not Now Music
No Image
Various Artists
Labelle 2:05
Sweethearts & Stolen Kisses: Love Songs
Various Artists
Performance
The  Best of Sam Cooke Not Now Music
No Image Labelle 2:05
No Image
Various Artists
Must Have Records 2:05
The Unforgettable Sam Cooke Bmg / Sony Music Entertainment 2:07
The Vintage Collection: Love Songs
Various Artists
Music Digital
The Vintage Collection: The 60s
Various Artists
Music Digital
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