Barbara Campbell is listed in the credits as being the writer/composer of the songs Only Sixteen, Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha, and (What A) Wonderful World. After that, she seemed to fade from view, but there’s a reason for her disappearance: there was no such person. The name was used when Lou Adler and Herb Alpert and Sam Cooke wrote a song together.
Sam Cooke hit a home run his first time at bat: You Send Me went to number one in 1957. The two singles that followed up his hit stopped rising in the teens. For the next few years, his records never got any higher than the twenties (and some fared even worse).
Lou and Herb had written Wonderful World and considered it finished, but Sam decided to change to focus of the song. He rewrote some of the lyrics to make the song focus more on school studies and recorded the song with his lyric changes. The record did better than anything he had released in over three years, eventually reaching #12 on the pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts in 1960. Perhaps the record’s success aided his follow-up: Chain Gang was his second most successful recording.
There is no known recording of Sam singing Wonderful World live. Allen Klein offered a $10,000 reward for any such recording in 1986, but none appear to have turned up yet.
Sam Cooke died from a gunshot wound at the age of 33 in 1964. As a tribute to Sam, Herman’s Hermits recorded and released their version of Wonderful World in 1965. In June of that year, the single reached #4. 1965 was a good Summer for the group: Wonderful World was one of five singles Herman’s Hermits had in the top ten that season (and two of those records reached #1).
Which brings us to the seventies, when Art Garfunkel recorded yet another version of the song. Paul Simon and James Taylor sang backup vocals on the record. A new verse was added to the song; although nobody took credit for the new lines, it’s understandable if you look at Paul with suspicious eyes. The version they recorded reached #17 on the pop charts and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart in early 1978. It was Art’s last top forty single.