Moonlight Serenade

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Not to be confused with Moonlight Sonata.
"Moonlight Serenade"
1939, Robbins Music.
Song by Glenn Miller
Published 1939
Composer Glenn Miller
Lyricist Mitchell Parish
"Moonlight Serenade"
Single by Glenn Miller
A-side "Sunrise Serenade"
Released 1939
Recorded April 4, 1939,
RCA Bluebird
Genre Jazz
Length 3:16
Label Bluebird Records, Bluebird B-10214-B
Writer(s) Glenn Miller
Producer(s) Glenn Miller

"Moonlight Serenade" [1] is an American popular song composed by Glenn Miller with subsequent lyrics by Mitchell Parish. It was an immediate phenomenon when first released in May 1939 as an instrumental arrangement and was adopted as Miller's signature tune. In 1991, Miller's recording of "Moonlight Serenade" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The song, recorded on April 4, 1939 on RCA Bluebird, was a Top Ten hit on the U.S. pop charts in 1939, reaching number three on the Billboard charts, where it stayed for fifteen weeks. It was the number 5 top pop hit of 1939 in the Billboard year-end tally. Glenn Miller had five records in the top 20 songs of 1939 on Billboard′s list.

In the UK, "Moonlight Serenade" was released as the A-side of a 78 on His Master's Voice, with "American Patrol" as the B-side. The recording reached number twelve in the UK in March 1954, staying on the chart for one week. In a medley with "Little Brown Jug" and "In the Mood", "Moonlight Serenade" reached number thirteen on the UK charts in January 1976, in a chart run of eight weeks.[2]

The recording was also issued as a V-Disc, No. 39A, in November 1943.


The recording used a clarinet-led saxophone section, which is widely considered[citation needed] the classic Glenn Miller style. Miller studied the Schillinger technique with Joseph Schillinger,[3] who is credited with helping Miller create the "Miller sound", and under whose tutelage he himself composed "Moonlight Serenade".[4]

The song evolved from a 1935 version entitled "Now I Lay Me Down to Weep", with music by Glenn Miller and lyrics by Eddie Heyman to a version called "Gone with the Dawn" with lyrics by George Simon,[5] and "The Wind in the Trees" with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. In his biography of Glenn Miller, George T. Simon recounted how vocalist Al Bowlly of the Ray Noble Orchestra sang him the Eddie Heyman lyrics to the Glenn Miller music of "Now I Lay Me Down to Weep" in 1935. The Noble Orchestra never recorded the song. Finally it ended up as "Moonlight Serenade" because Robbins Music bought the music and learned that Miller was recording a cover of "Sunrise Serenade", a Frankie Carle associated song,[6] for RCA Victor. They thought "Moonlight" would be a natural association for "Sunrise".[7]

"Now I Lay Me Down to Weep" was composed in 1935 with lyrics by Eddie Heyman and music by Glenn Miller. After "Moonlight Serenade", originally released solely as an instrumental, became a smash hit in 1939, Mitchell Parish wrote new lyrics for the music under that title.

A notable vocal version can be found on Frank Sinatra's Moonlight Sinatra released in 1965, which also contains "Moon Love", "Moonlight Becomes You", and "Oh, You Crazy Moon", which were recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. "Moonlight Serenade" can also be found on Nothing But the Best, a 2008 Frank Sinatra greatest hits compilation by Reprise, on My Way: The Best of Frank Sinatra from 1997 by Warner Bros., and the Frank Sinatra compilation Greatest Love Songs from 2002. Frank Sinatra also released the song as part of an 7" EP 33RPM single in 1966, Reprise SR1018. The song also appeared on the 2015 centennial collection Ultimate Sinatra. In 1939, Count Basie and His Orchestra recorded one of the earliest versions to feature the lyrics added by Mitchell Parish which was released as a 78 single, Vocalion 5036.

"Moonlight Serenade" has been covered by Barry Manilow, Carly Simon, The Airmen of Note of the U.S. Air Force with Air Force Strings, Charlie Haden, Marc Reift, Chet Baker with The Mariachi Brass in 1966, Santo and Johnny, Thelma Houston, Carol Burnett, Toots Thielemans, Deodato, who reached number 18 on the Billboard Easy Listening Chart, Count Basie and his Orchestra with vocals by Helen Humes in 1939, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Cab Calloway, The Modernaires, Gene Krupa and his Orchestra, Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, Bert Kaempfert, Ray Conniff, Mina, Dick Todd on RCA Bluebird, Geoff Love and His Orchestra, Lloyd Gregory on solo guitar, Dick Hyman, Maxwell Davis and his Orchestra, Tony Evans, Los Indios Tabajaras, David Rose, Richard Himber, Fi Dells Quartet, Waikikis, The Universal-International Orchestra conducted by Joseph Gershenson, Oleg Lundstrom, Charlie Byrd, Taco, Alix Combelle, Richard Vaughn, Lisa Ono, Eddie Maynard, Simone Kopmajer, Hamburg Philharmonia, Frankie Capp, Dave, Robert Banks Trio, Karel Vlach, Transatlantic Swing Band, the Frankie Condon Orchestra, The Romantic Strings, Paul Mauriat, Tommy Leonetti, Johnny Desmond, the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler, John Williams, and Keith Lockhart, Charlie Calello Orchestra, J.P. Torres and the Cuban All Stars, Tex Beneke and His Orchestra, the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra, Urbie Green, Bob Mintzer, Laura Fygi, Max Greger, Mario Pezzotta and His Orchestra, 101 Strings, Andrés Ramiro and His Orchestra, The Hiltonaires, Big Warsaw Band, Pep Poblet, Ray Anthony, Cheryl Bentyne, jazz trumpeter Bobby Hackett in 1965, The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic, Joe Loss, Ted Heath, Lawrence Welk, Henry Mancini, James Last, Michael Maxwell and His Orchestra, John Blair, Ray Eberle, Enoch Light, Modern Folk Quartet, Buddy Emmons on steel guitar, The Rivieras, a 1950s Doo Wop group whose recording reached number 47 on the pop charts in 1959, Tuxedo Junction, Yasuko Agawa, George Melachrino, German bandleader Kurt Edelhagen, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Rabin, Henry Jerome and his Orchestra as a 45 single, Decca 25545, Kurt Elling, Syd Lawrence, The Ventures, Archie Bleyer, Mantovani, Bobby Vinton, who reached number 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976, and the rock band Chicago as a 1995 3 inch CD single in Japan and on the big band album Night & Day Big Band.[8][9]

Jazz critic Gary Giddins wrote about the song's impact and legacy; "Miller exuded little warmth on or off the bandstand, but once the band struck up its theme, audiences were done for: throats clutched, eyes softened. Can any other record match 'Moonlight Serenade' for its ability to induce a Pavlovian slobber in so many for so long?" (The New Yorker, May 24, 2004).

"Moonlight Serenade" released as V-Disc 39A, VP 75, Theme Song, by the U.S. War Department in November 1943.

In 1939, Miller had a 15-minute radio series on CBS called Moonlight Serenade that ran three times a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7:15 and 10:00 PM, until 1942, sponsored by Chesterfield.

Wartime release[edit]

The 1939 RCA Victor studio recording of "Moonlight Serenade" was released by the U.S. War Department as V-Disc 39A, VP 75, Theme Song, in November, 1943. The recording was also released on the Navy V-Disc No. 160A. A V-Disc test pressing of a recording of the song from November 17, 1945 by the AAF Band was made but the disc was not issued. A new recording by Glenn Miller with the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF) was broadcast to Germany in 1944 on the radio program The Wehrmacht Hour.[10]

Appearances in popular media[edit]


  • In Cold Case episode "World's End", "Moonlight Serenade" is heard playing over the radio in the year 1938.
  • In an episode of The Judy Garland Show from 1964 the song was featured by the orchestra before a duet with Martha Raye in a Glenn Miller tribute.
  • In an All in the Family episode, "Archie and Edith Alone" (1972), Edith takes out a small 78 RPM turntable and plays "Moonlight Serenade" to Archie where he then dances with her to it. Also Glenn Miller is mentioned in the opening credit sequence (Boy, the way Glenn Miller played...).
  • In The Simpsons 1994 episode "Lady Bouvier's Lover", "Moonlight Serenade" turns out to be Marge's mother's favorite tune: She and Grandpa Simpson realize their love for each other while dancing together to it, but Mr. Burns one-ups Grandpa Simpson and diverts Mrs. Bouvier's affections with a vigorous and technically difficult solo dance to Louis Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)." Grandpa Simpson evens the score, however, by disrupting the wedding ceremony with another rendition of "Moonlight Serenade," after which Mrs. Bouvier decides that she wishes to remain single.
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Luanne Virgin 2.0", "Moonlight Serenade" plays at the dance.
  • Starsky and Hutch episode "The Collector" in 1977
  • The song has featured twice in the ABC series Lost. In the season 2 episode "The Long Con", Sayid and Hurley hear the song being played on a music station. It is heard again in the season 3 episodes "A Tale of Two Cities", this time in a flashback, as Jack sits in his car.
  • It is featured in the episode "Next Stop, Nowhere" from the series Quincy, M.E. starring Jack Klugman in 1982.
  • The Lawrence Welk Show, aired on January 19, 1974, as part of a Glenn Miller tribute.
  • It has also been featured in several episodes of the sitcom The Golden Girls.
  • "Moonlight Serenade" was part of a Glenn Miller tribute on The Carol Burnett Show sung by Carol Burnett, episode #917, aired on CBS on January 10, 1976.
  • It was also featured in three Doctor Who episodes, "Revelation of the Daleks" "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances".
  • In an episode of Doctors, Michelle and Nick walk next to the exit and dance in the moonlight.
  • In a Growing Pains episode, Carol dances with a boy she likes to this song.
  • In the 1990 episode of The Wonder Years called "Little Debbie".
  • In the television miniseries Stephen King's Rose Red.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: the song plays as Picard enters in a 1940s tavern generated by the Holodeck in the episode "Manhunt", 1989.
  • T.J. Hooker episode "The Empty Gun", 1982.
  • In the Domino Day 2007 during the project "Everlasting Love".
  • In St. Elsewhere "Time Heals", part 2, when there is a flashback to Dr. Auschlander in 1945 and he goes on his first date with his future wife.
  • In a second season episode of the police procedural drama Blue Bloods.
  • In the series finale of Warehouse 13, Artie Nielsen's highlighted memory in the episode involves a party at an officer's club on December 31, 1941 where an artifact keeps repeating a 25-minute time bubble year after year. When the bubble appears annually at 11:35 pm on December 31, this song is being played in the background.
  • In the 1961 series Glenn Miller Time hosted by Ray McKinley.[11]



  1. ^ "Moonlight Serenade". Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Song artist 6 - Glenn Miller..
  3. ^ "Joseph Schillinger, the forgotten Guru", The Schillinger School of Music
  4. ^ "Who Is Joseph Schillinger?" at the Wayback Machine (archived February 19, 2009), The Schillinger System.
  5. ^ Simon, George T. Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, pp, 71-72.
  6. ^ Frankie Carle, Band Leader Who Wrote 'Sunrise Serenade,' Dies at 97 -
  7. ^ Simon. pp. 162-163.
  8. ^ A comprehensive reference to who has recorded "Moonlight Serenade" is ASCAP's listing at [1].
  9. ^ Second Hand Songs: Moonlight Serenade.
  10. ^ Glenn Miller German Wehrmacht Hour.
  11. ^ Glenn Miller Time. IMDB.


  • Flower, John. Moonlight Serenade: A Bio-discography of the Glenn Miller Civilian Band. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1972.
  • Simon, George Thomas. Simon Says. New York: Galahad, 1971. ISBN 0-88365-001-0.
  • Simon, George Thomas. Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. NY: Crowell, 1974.

External links[edit]