Sawyer Fredericks, like many of us, still thinks, ‘What A Wonderful World’

Like the world he sings about, his voice is fragile as it quivers.

But Sawyer Fredericks, just like Louis Armstrong and Jerry Garcia before him, never abandons hope. That’s my take on the bold choice by Fredericks to release his own rendition of “What A Wonderful World,” the iconic anthem and enduring plea to see the good in the bad and find hope in despair. Click here to watch the video.

Armstrong made the song written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss famous, with many hearing it for the first time in the 1987 Robin Williams film, “Good Morning, Vietnam.” Garcia added it to the repertoire of the Jerry Garcia Band in that ensemble’s later years.

But among a range of renditions, including those recorded by Joey Ramone and Roy Clark, Fredericks has left his own imprint on this timeless tune. His gentle finger-picking on an acoustic guitar evokes the loneliness and confusion that many of us are feeling at the moment, thanks to the greatest health and financial crises in generations. His reluctance to come charging out of the gate, and his decision to simply sidle up next to his listeners with a sonic embrace, speaks volumes.

The music video Fredericks has released for “What A Wonderful World” features footage of him busking in his adopted hometown of Troy, New York, near the state capital of Albany and not far from the family farm in Fultonville. In the video, more than one passerby ignores Fredericks — who won season 8 of “The Voice” on NBC, working with Pharrell — and his sidewalk performance. And the theme of being overlooked is underscored with animation in the video that doesn’t hold back as it strives to capture how many of us are feeling these days — lost and left behind.

“In my last year of touring, and the many livestreams during this pandemic, I have found myself wanting to end my sets with this iconic song…,” Fredericks said of “What A Wonderful World” in a statement. “Many of my original songs deal with a lot of sadness and emotional struggles. I’ve started closing my shows with my rendition of this timeless song, as a hopeful reminder of all the good in our world.” 

Sawyer Fredericks. Photo by Holly Tutor

“What a Wonderful World” marks the final release for Sawyer in a cycle that he launched several years ago, and which also includes his latest album, “Flowers For You,” released at the beginning of the pandemic.

Paper-cut artist Andrew Benincasa directed the video for the song, and created the animation in the video, with Lindsey Morano serving as videographer. Benincasa, who has previously worked with Fredericks, captured the musician’s latest endeavor with some compelling words.

“…His songs are always so rich to work with because they have complex emotions,” Benincasa said in a press release. “His cover of ‘What a Wonderful World’ holds to this pattern: the optimism of the song’s lyrics is matched by the melancholy of Sawyer’s singing and the quiet sunniness of his guitar playing. When I first heard the song, I knew I would want to represent and hold those tensions of optimism and melancholy, while also bringing them to a visual resolution.
 
“I knew I wanted to use live footage of Sawyer busking and being ignored by passersby to embody the melancholic foil of the song, and that the animated portion would embody the joyful and manic inner-life of the artist.”

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