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Jerry Butler - "Moon River" (1961)

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Published on Feb 20, 2017

WARNING: LONG DESCRIPTION......

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

It became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded it in 1962 (and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremony that year). He sang the first eight bars of the song at the beginning of each episode of his eponymous television show and named his production company and venue in Branson, Missouri after it. His autobiography is called "Moon River" and Me. Williams' version was never released as a single, but it charted as an LP track that he recorded for Columbia on a hit album of 1962. Cadence Records' president Archie Bleyer disliked Williams' version, as Bleyer believed it had little or no appeal to teenagers. Forty years later in 2002, a 74-year-old Williams sang the song at the conclusion of the live telecast of the NBC 75th Anniversary Special to a standing ovation.

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 had 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.

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. Robert Wright wrote in The Atlantic Monthly, "This is a love sung to wanderlust. Or a romantic song in which the romantic partner is the idea of romance." An inlet near Savannah, Georgia, Johnny Mercer's hometown, was named Moon River in honor of him and this song.


Mercer and Mancini wrote the song for Audrey Hepburn to fit her vocal range. The lyrics, written by Mercer, are reminiscent of his childhood in Savannah, Georgia, including its waterways. As a child, he had picked huckleberries in summer, and connected them with a carefree childhood and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

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 behind-the-scenes consternation when a Paramount Pictures executive, Martin Rackin, suggested removing the song from the film after a tepid Los Angeles preview. Hepburn's reaction was described by Mancini and others in degrees varying from her saying, "Over my dead body!" to her using more colorful language to make the same point. Hepburn's version was uncredited in the original movie soundtrack.

An album version was recorded by Mancini and his orchestra and chorus in 1960. It was released as a single in 1961 and became a number 11 hit in December of that year.[10] Due to unpublished charts in Billboard, Joel Whitburn's Top Adult (Contemporary) Songs variously reported the song as a #3 or #1 easy listening hit. Mancini's original version was also featured in the film Born on the Fourth of July (1989). In 1993, following Hepburn's death, 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.

This was also a huge hit single for Jerry Butler in late 1961, reaching number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December of that year, two weeks before Mancini's version reached the same position.

  • Category

  • Song

  • Artist

    • Sounds Unlimited Orchestra and Singers / London Cinema Orchestra
  • Album

    • Temas Cantados del Cine
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG, The Orchard Music (on behalf of Multimusic México); CMRRA, Sony ATV Publishing, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, LatinAutor - Warner Chappell, LatinAutor, and 5 Music Rights Societies

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