Moon River

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the song. For other uses, see Moon River (disambiguation).
"Moon River"
Song by Audrey Hepburn from the album Breakfast at Tiffany's: Music from the Motion Picture
Released 1962
Recorded 1961
Genre Easy listening
Label RCA Victor Records
Writer Johnny Mercer
Composer Henry Mancini
Music sample
Theme of "Moon River" composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer

"Moon River" is a song composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer. It received an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its first performance by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.[1] It also won Mancini the 1962 Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Mercer the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.[2] The song has been covered by many other artists.

It became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded it in 1961 and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremonies in 1962. He sang the first eight bars at the beginning of his eponymous television show and named his production company and venue in Branson, Missouri after it. Williams' version never charted, except as an LP track, which he recorded for Columbia in a hit album of 1962.[citation needed] Cadence Records' president Archie Bleyer disliked Williams' version, as Bleyer believed it had little or no appeal to teenagers.[citation needed]

The song's success was responsible for relaunching Mercer's career as a songwriter, which had stalled in the mid-1950s because rock and roll replaced jazz standards as the popular music of the time. The song's popularity is such that it has been used as a test sample in a study on people's memories of popular songs.[3]

Comments about the lyrics have noted that they are particularly reminiscent of Mercer's youth in the Southern United States and his longing to expand his horizons.[4] An inlet near Savannah, Georgia, Johnny Mercer's hometown, was named Moon River in honor of him and this song.[3]



Mercer and Mancini wrote the song for Audrey Hepburn to fit her vocal range. Initially, the lyrics started, "I'm Holly, like I want to be / like Holly on a tree back home ..."; however, they were later changed to fit the theme of the film Breakfast at Tiffany's.[5]

Although an instrumental version is played over the film's opening titles, the lyrics are first heard in a scene where Paul "Fred" Varjak (George Peppard) discovers Holly Golightly (Hepburn) singing them, accompanied by her guitar, on the fire escape outside their apartments.

There was an eruption of much behind-the-scenes consternation when a Paramount Pictures executive, Martin Rackin, suggested deleting the song from the film immediately after a very successful San Francisco preview. Hepburn's reaction was described by Mancini and others in degrees varying from her saying "over my dead body" to her using somewhat more colorful language to make the same point.[6]

Hepburn's version was uncredited in the original movie soundtrack. Instead, an album version recorded by Mancini and his chorus was released as a single and became a number 11 hit. In different versions, Joel Whitburn's Top Adult (Contemporary) Songs reported the song as a #3 or #1 easy listening hit, due to unpublished charts in Billboard. Only months after Hepburn's death in 1993 her version was released on an album titled Music from the Films of Audrey Hepburn. In 2004, Hepburn's version finished at #4 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

"Moon River" was also featured in the film Born on the Fourth of July and in Mad Men season 6, episode 13, "In Care Of".[7]


"Moon River" was a hit single for Jerry Butler in late 1961, reaching number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December,[8] two weeks before Mancini's recording reached the same spot. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, South African singer Danny Williams had a hit version of the song that reached number one in the UK in the final week of 1961.[1] Although Andy Williams never released the song as a single, his LP Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes, released in the spring of 1962, was certified Gold in October 1963 for sales grossing over $1 million.[9]

The artists on the original recording session on June 18, 1964 are Donn Trenner, John Getar, Steve Allen, Paul Bergotrom, Jules Bertaux, Samuel Boghossian, Conte Condoli, John DeVoogdt, Justin KiTullio, Herb Ellis, Stanley Harris, Leonard Malarsky, Murray McEachern, Robert Neel, Gilbert Nuttyoombe, George Poole,Frank Rosolino, John Santulia, Louis Sherman, Darrel Terwilliger, Gerald Vinci.

Other notable artists who have covered the song include Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers (instrumental), Aretha Franklin, Ann-Margret (1962), Dick and Dee Dee (1962),[10] Jonny Fair (Live), Lena Horne, Nico Fidenco in Italian (1962), Joni James (1963), Jay and the Americans (1962), Pat Boone (1963), The Anita Kerr Quartet (1965), Bobby Solo in Italian (1966), The Afghan Whigs,[11] Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (instrumental, 1969),[12] Paul Anka, Blake, Louis Armstrong, Vic Damone, Billy Stewart (1965), Bobby Vinton (1965), Vince Guaraldi, Beru Revue, Mary Black, Sarah Brightman, Liz Callaway, Perry Como, Ben E. King, Ray Conniff, Bobby Darin, Ania Dąbrowska, Dr. John, Dump, Billy Eckstine, The Four Freshmen, Connie Francis, Bill Frisell (instrumental), Emi Fujita, John Frusciante, Vincent Gallo, Judy Garland, Nora Aunor (live), PJ Harvey, Duane Eddy (instrumental, 1962), Karel Gott, Grant Green (instrumental), Patty Griffin, The Innocence Mission (sometimes incorrectly attributed to actress Milla Jovovich), Elton John (live), Josh Ritter in his acoustic session for the website Daytrotter,[13] Bradley Joseph (instrumental), Kim Yoo-jin, James Last, Trini Lopez, Lisa Ono, Joey McIntyre, The Bob Crewe Generation, Johnny Mathis, Brad Mehldau, The Three Tenors, Jane Monheit, Morrissey, Willie Nelson, Patsy Ann Noble, Eddi Reader, Jim Reeves, John Barrowman, R.E.M., Katie Melua, Andrea Ross, Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra, Neil Hannon, The Killers, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand (2003, The Movie Album), Sarah Vaughan, Nan Vernon, Kid Koala, The Overtones, Westlife, Victoria Williams, The Divine Comedy, Tata Young, Tommy Emmanuel (2010), Helmut Lotti, Chiara Civello, Christine Collister, Diana Panton, Oscar Peterson (solo piano), Hirai Ken, Rumer, Kazumasa Oda (1988 album, Between the Word and the Heart), Khalil Fong, Royce Campbell, Takeshi Terauchi and the Bunnys (instrumental), Susanne Sundfør, and Joanna Wang (2014 album, Midnight Cinema).

Mercer himself recorded the song in 1974 for his album My Huckleberry Friend.

The Louis Armstrong recording of the song appears in the animated art film Moon Man, based off the book by Tomi Ungerer. On October 4, 2006, Canadian turntablist Kid Koala (Eric San) reinterpreted the song at Picnic Electronik in Montreal. Dedicated to his parents, Kid Koala's version features an extended violin solo he performs live by playing notes from the song's instrumental section at different pitches on four turntables. He also performed this piece while opening for Deltron 3030 (October 2013) in Eugene, OR.

In 2007, saxophonist Dave Koz recorded a version from his standards music album, At the Movies. The song featured Barry Manilow on vocals.[14][15][16]

Clay Aiken recorded the song on his 2010 album Tried and True. Aiken's version features a guitar solo by country artist Vince Gill. Abi Alton performed the song during movie week on The X Factor (UK series 10), under the guidance of her mentor Nicole Scherzinger.

In February and March 2013 New Zealand artist Neil Finn (of Crowded House) and Australian artist Paul Kelly performed a series of collaborative concerts on their Goin' Your Way Tour which included "Moon River" as one of the final numbers in their set list.[17][18] A gig at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall was recorded for a live album, Goin' Your Way, which was released in November that year as a 2× CD, Blu-ray and DVD.[19] The title of the albums comes from a phrase in the song's chorus: "Wherever you're goin', I'm goin' your way".[20]

A cover of the song by Keeley Bumford was used for the theme of the video game Bayonetta 2.


The song, written in F in 3/4 time, has the following chord structure (each cell represents one bar):

I vi IV I
IV I vii7b5 III7
vi I7 IV bVII7
vi7 #iv7b5 VII7 iii VI7 ii V7

Where two chords appear in one bar, they are played on the 1st and 2nd beats. In the second half of the song, the chords repeat with a modified ending.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 135. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ "Moon River by Henry Mancini". 
  3. ^ a b Bartlett, James C., and Snelus, Paul; Snelus, Paul (September 1980). "Lifespan Memory for Popular Songs". The American Journal of Psychology (University of Illinois Press) 93 (3): 551–560. doi:10.2307/1422730. JSTOR 1422730. 
  4. ^ Stephen Holden (1997-03-30). "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of Mercer's Lyrics". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  5. ^ "The story behind the song: Moon River". The Telegraph. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  6. ^ Donald Spoto (2007). Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn. Arrow Books. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-09-948704-3. 
  7. ^ "Season Finale Review: Mad Men: "In Care Of" (Both Sides Now)". Hitfix: What's Alan Watching?. June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Hot 100 for Week Ending December 17". Billboard Music Week. December 11, 1961. 
  9. ^ "American certifications – Moon River _ Other Great Movie Themes". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 24 June 2011. 
  10. ^ Dick and Dee Dee, Tell Me – The Mountain's High. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  11. ^ The Cover Connoisseur (2011-01-14). "The Cover Connoisseur – Your Huckleberry Friend". 
  12. ^ A&M album SP 4228, "The Brass Are Comin'," A&Mania
  13. ^ Sean Moeller (2010-04-12). "Stories Of American Majesty And Wandering". 
  14. ^ Brian Soergel (2007-05-24). "Dave Koz's Secret Symphony Gig". 
  15. ^ Elizabeth Ware (2007-10-03). "Dave Koz - At The Movies". 
  16. ^ Moon River at AllMusic
  17. ^ Shedden, Iain (16 November 2013). "Goin' Your Way (Neil Finn and Paul Kelly)". The Australian (News Corp Australia). Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  18. ^ "Neil Finn/Paul Kelly Australian Tour – Latest Dates". Neil Finn Official Website. January 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  19. ^ "Watch Paul Kelly & Neil Finn Concert". Paul Kelly Official Website. 20 March 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  20. ^ McArthur, Rachael (11 November 2013). "Neil Finn and Paul Kelly – Goin' Your Way". Renowned for Sound (Brendon Veevers, Robert Lee). Retrieved 18 December 2013. 

External links[edit]