Louis Armstrong saw more than “trees of green and red roses, too” when he sang “What a Wonderful World” in his raspy voice 50 years ago. He saw the Corona block where he lived.
“There’s so much in ‘Wonderful World’ that brings me back to my neighborhood where I live in Corona, New York,” Armstrong recalled in a 1968 interview. “Lucille and I, ever since we’re married, we’ve been right there in that block. And everybody keeps their little homes up like we do, and it’s just one big, happy family.”
Armstrong lived on 107th Street in Corona, which — following his death in 1971 — was transformed into the museum chronicling the famed musician’s life. Now, the Louis Armstrong House Museum, along with the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College and the Queens Borough Public Library, are teaming up to hold an array of events celebrating the 50th birthday of Armstrong’s most famous and beloved tune.
All 62 Queens Library branches are participating in the program, holding workshops, concerts, lectures and other events through June 30 commemorating Armstrong’s life and diversity of music.
“While the song reflects Louis Armstrong’s feelings about the neighborhood of Corona and borough of Queens, it also applies to the way many of our customers experience our libraries,” Queens Library President and CEO Dennis Walcott said. “It speaks to the joy of discovery and the satisfaction of learning that occurs each time people come to us for information that helps them succeed in their lives.”
The initiative includes art activities and an audio-visual presentation about the history of “What a Wonderful World” and its relationship to the tumultuous 1960s. Written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, Armstrong recorded the tune in August 1967; it was released the following October as a single, reaching No. 12 on the Billboard charts for U.S. adult contemporary music.
Nonetheless, in the years since its debut, Armstrong’s version of “What a Wonderful World” grew on the American public and has been frequently used in films and television shows.
“The Louis Armstrong House Museum is thrilled to be sharing the legacy of the great Louis Armstrong throughout the borough of Queens and beyond the neighborhood of Corona he loved so much,” added David Ostwald, chairman of the museum’s board. Ostwald is also leader of the Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, a Grammy-nominated band that is among the many musical acts performing as part of the “What a Wonderful World” series of events.
The Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, which features New Orleans-style jazz music, will perform at the Langston Hughes Library (100-01 Northern Blvd., Corona) at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 24. They’ll also perform on June 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Flushing Library (41-17 Main St.) and on June 29 at 6 p.m. at the Peninsula Library (92-25 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Beach).
You can also participate in lectures on “The Life & Times of Louis Armstrong” on Friday, May 18, at 1 p.m. at the Glen Oaks Library (256-04 Union Tpke.) and on June 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Forest Hills Library (108-19 71st Ave.). Lectures in Spanish will be held on Tuesday, May 1, at 3:30 p.m. at the Corona Library (38-23 104th St.), June 2 at 3 p.m. at the Jackson Heights Library (35-51 81st St.) and June 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Astoria Library (14-01 Astoria Blvd.).
Click here to learn more about the “What a Wonderful World” series.