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Blue Moon (1934 song)

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"Blue Moon" is a classic popular song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934, and has become a standard ballad. It may be the first instance of the familiar "50s progression" in a popular song. The song was a hit twice in 1949 with successful recordings in the US by Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé. In 1961, "Blue Moon" became an international number one hit for the doo-wop group The Marcels, on the Billboard 100 chart and in the UK Singles chart. Over the years, "Blue Moon" has been covered by various artists including versions by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, the Mavericks, Dean Martin and Rod Stewart.


Versions of this song are used liberally in the soundtrack of the 1981 horror-comedy film An American Werewolf in London.


Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in May 1933. They were soon commissioned to write the songs for Hollywood Party, a film that was to star many of the studio's top artists. Richard Rodgers later recalled, "One of our ideas was to include a scene in which Jean Harlow is shown as an innocent young girl saying—or rather singing—her prayers. How the sequence fitted into the movie I haven't the foggiest notion, but the purpose was to express Harlow's overwhelming ambition to become a movie star ('Oh Lord, if you're not busy up there,/I ask for help with a prayer/So please don't give me the air . . .')." The song was not even recorded (nor was the movie released) and MGM Song #225 "Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)" dated June 14, 1933, was registered for copyright as an unpublished work on July 10, 1933.

Lorenz Hart wrote new lyrics for the tune to create a title song for the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama: "Act One:/You gulp your coffee and run;/Into the subway you crowd./Don’t breathe, it isn’t allowed". The song, which was also titled "It's Just That Kind of Play", was cut from the film before release, and registered for copyright as an unpublished work on March 30, 1934. The studio then asked for a nightclub number for the film. Rodgers still liked the melody so Hart wrote a third lyric: "The Bad in Every Man" ("Oh, Lord . . . /I could be good to a lover,/But then I always discover/The bad in ev’ry man"), which was sung by Shirley Ross. The song, which was also released as sheet music, was not a hit.

After the film was released by MGM, Jack Robbins—the head of the studio's publishing company—decided that the tune was suited to commercial release but needed more romantic lyrics and a punchier title. Hart was initially reluctant to write yet another lyric but he was persuaded. The result was "Blue moon/you saw me standing alone/without a dream in my heart/without a love of my own".

There is an introductory verse (a common technique employed by songwriters of the 1920s and 1930s) that comes before the first refrain of the song. Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart used it in their 2004 version of the song (Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III). The last line of this extra verse is "Life was a bitter cup for the saddest of all men."

Robbins licensed the song to Hollywood Hotel, a radio program that used it as the theme. On January 15, 1935, Connee Boswell recorded it for Brunswick Records. It subsequently was featured in at least seven more MGM films including the Marx Brothers' At the Circus and Viva Las Vegas.


The lyric presumably refers to an English idiomatic expression: "once in a blue moon", meaning "very rarely". The term refers to a second full moon within a calendar month, an event that occurs once every two or three years. (The origin of the expression is unclear; see article "blue moon"). The narrator of the song is relating a stroke of luck so unlikely that it must have taken place under a blue moon. The title relies on a play on words, since blue is also the colour of melancholy, and indeed the narrator is sad and lonely until he finds love. The song is noted for its ending with the exaggerated baritone "blue moon".


American swing era singer Billy Eckstine did a cover version of "Blue Moon" that reached the Billboard charts in 1949. It was released by MGM Records as catalog number 10311. It first reached the Juke Box chart on March 5, 1949, and lasted three weeks on the chart, peaking at number 21.


American jazz singer Mel Tormé did a cover version of "Blue Moon" that reached the Billboard charts in 1949. It was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 15428. It first reached the Best Seller chart on April 8, 1949, and lasted five weeks on the chart, peaking at number 20. The record was a two-sided hit, as the flip side, "Again", also charted.


"Blue Moon"'s first crossover recording to rock and roll came from Elvis Presley in 1956. His cover version of the song was included on his self-titled debut album Elvis Presley, issued on RCA Records. Presley's remake of "Blue Moon" was the B-side to the single "Just Because". It was produced by Sam Phillips.

In Jim Jarmusch's 1989 film Mystery Train, the three distinct stories that make up the narrative are linked by a portion of Elvis Presley's version of "Blue Moon" (as heard on a radio broadcast) and a subsequent offscreen gunshot, which are heard once during each story, revealing that the three stories occur simultaneously in real time.


The Marcels, a doo-wop group, also recorded the track for their album Blue Moon. In 1961, the Marcels had three songs left to record and needed one more. Producer Stu Phillips did not like any of the other songs except one that had the same chord changes as "Heart and Soul" and "Blue Moon". He asked them if they knew either, and one knew "Blue Moon" and taught it to the others, though with the bridge or release (middle section - "I heard somebody whisper...") wrong. The famous introduction to the song ("bomp-baba-bomp" and "dip-da-dip") was an excerpt of an original song that the group had in its act.


The record reached number one on the Billboard Pop chart for three weeks and number one on the R&B chart. It also peaked at #1 on the UK Singles Chart. The Marcels' version of "Blue Moon" sold a million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. It is featured in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The Marcels doo-wop version is one of three different versions used in the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London with this version appearing at the end credits of the film. A version by Bobby Vinton plays during the film's opening titles while a version by Sam Cooke plays during the film's famous werewolf transformation scene. The Marcels' version of the song is referenced in the 1962 Academy Award nominated animated short Disney musical film, A Symposium on Popular Songs during the song, "Puppy Love Is Here to Stay" written by Robert & Richard Sherman.


American country music group The Mavericks covered the song for the soundtrack of the 1995 film Apollo 13. Their version peaked at number 57 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada. It also charted on the RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks chart, peaking at number 15. A music video was produced, directed by Todd Hallowell.


British singer Rod Stewart recorded the song with Eric Clapton for Stewart's 2004 album Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III. Their version was released as a single in early 2005 and peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in the US.

Other versions

  • The first successful record of the song was made by Connie Boswell for Brunswick in January, 1935
  • The song was recorded numerous additional times, including by Benny Goodman, Julie London, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jo Stafford, Patti Page, Conway Twitty, Showaddywaddy, and Ella Fitzgerald.
  • Jimmy Bowen released a version of the song as the B-side to his 1958 single "My Kind of Woman".
  • Sha Na Na performed the song in the 1978 film Grease, available on Grease soundtrack on side 2, track 11. This performance was an up-tempo doo-wop rendition, played for self-parody comic effect, in contrast to the more typical ballad performances.
  • The Ventures opened their 1961 album The Colorful Ventures (Dolton BLP 2008/BST 8008) with an instrumental version
  • Takeshi Terauchi & Bunnys recorded an instrumental version of the song on their 1967 album, The World Is Waiting For Terry
  • Bob Dylan covered the song on his 1970 double-album Self Portrait
  • Former Motown group The Originals recorded a disco version of the song that was released as a single on the Fantasy label in 1978
  • U.K. singer Elkie Brooks on her 1984 album Screen Gems.
  • Canadian group Cowboy Junkies recorded a version of the song on the group's 1989 album The Trinity Sessions
  • Actress-singer Cybill Shepherd sings "Blue Moon" on a 1987 episode of the TV show Moonlighting with Bruce Willis
  • Composer Mark Isham released a cover version, with vocals by Tanita Tikaram, on his 1990 self-titled album
  • British actor and singer John Alford released a cover in 1996 as a double A-side single with "Only You" and it was his biggest hit, peaking at #9 in the UK
  • Red Elvises frequently perform the song in concert, and a version is included in their 2000 live album Your Favorite Band Live
  • A rap version of the song was performed by musician Art Hodge and rapping/singing group 40 Watt Hype during first half of the opening credits of the 2002 Australian-American science fiction comedy film The Adventures of Pluto Nash
  • An acoustic guitar-based version of the song by contemporary Christian musician, Phil Keaggy, features on his 2006 instrumental album, Roundabout.
  • In July 2011, Beady Eye recorded it as an hymn sung by Manchester City fans during matches, in support of Manchester City F.C.'s new 2011/12 kit
  • Choral adaptations

    A version suitable for performance by chamber choir arranged by David Blackwell is in the collection "In the Mood" published by Oxford University Press.

    Spanish adaptations

    The Venezuelan singer Alfredo Sadel recorded a Spanish version of "Blue Moon" retitled as: "Azul" (adap. by René Estevez) included in a compilation album called "Sadel en el tiempo.", an album consisting of 4 volumes (CDs) and published by Alfredo Sadel Foundation.

    Italian adaptations

    Italian singer Carlo Buti on September 17, 1935 recorded an Italian version of "Blue Moon" retitled as: "Luna Malinconica" (adap. by A. Bracchi) included in an album released by Columbia (DQ 1611).

    Instrumental version

    The instrumental version of the song by Billy Vaughn were recorded in 1961 included in his studio album, "Moonlight Melodies" and "Billy Vaughn Plays".

    Violinist Vov Dylan and Pianist Glenn Amer did a instrumental cover of this for their 2016 album "Cocktail Classics"


    Blue Moon (1934 song) Wikipedia

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