Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Fly Me to the Moon

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April 1954





Bart Howard

Fly Me to the Moon

"Fly Me to the Moon", originally titled "In Other Words", is a song written in 1954 by Bart Howard. Kaye Ballard made the first recording of the song in 1954. Since then it has become a frequently recorded jazz standard often featured in popular culture. Frank Sinatra's 1964 version was closely associated with the Apollo missions to the Moon.


In 1999, the US-based Songwriters Hall of Fame recognized the importance of "Fly Me to the Moon" by inducting it as a "Towering Song" which is an award "...presented each year to the creators of an individual song that has influenced our culture in a unique way over many years.”

Background and composition

In 1954, when writing the song which would become "Fly Me to the Moon", Bart Howard had been pursuing a career in music for more than 20 years. He played piano to accompany cabaret singers but also wrote songs with Cole Porter, his idol, in mind. In response to a publisher's request for a simpler song, Bart Howard wrote a cabaret ballad in waltz time which he titled "In Other Words". A publisher tried to make him change some lyrics from "fly me to the moon" to "take me to the moon" but Howard refused to do this. Many years later Howard commented that "... it took me 20 years to find out how to write a song in 20 minutes".

He used his position as a piano accompanist and presenter at the Blue Angel cabaret venue to promote the song, and it was soon introduced in cabaret performances by Felicia Sanders.

Early recordings

Kaye Ballard made the first commercial recording of "In Other Words". It was released by Decca in April 1954. A brief review published on 8 May 1954 in Billboard said that "In Other Words" was "A love song sung with feeling by Miss Ballard." This recording was released as the flipside of "Lazy Afternoon" which Kaye Ballard was currently performing as star of the stage show The Golden Apple.

During the next few years jazz and cabaret singers released cover versions of "In Other Words" on EP or LP record albums including Chris Connor, Johnny Mathis, Portia Nelson and Nancy Wilson. Eydie Gormé featured the song on her 1958 album "Eydie In Love" which reached #20 in the Cashbox Album Charts and was nominated for a Grammy award.

"Fly Me to the Moon"

In 1960 Peggy Lee recorded the song then made it more popular when she performed it in front of a large television audience on The Ed Sullivan Show. As the song's popularity increased, it became better known as "Fly Me to the Moon" and in 1963 Peggy Lee convinced Bart Howard to make the name change official. In the early 1960s versions of the song were released under its new name by many well known singers, including Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan and Brenda Lee. Connie Francis released two non-English versions of the song in 1963: in Italian as "Portami Con Te" and in Spanish as "Llévame a la Luna".

In 1962 Joe Harnell arranged and recorded an instrumental version in a bossa nova style. It was released as a single in late 1962, reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1963 and won Harnell a Grammy award. Harnell's version was included on his album Fly Me to the Moon and the Bossa Nova Pops released in early 1963 which reached #3 stereo album on the Billboard 200 chart. Versions of the song were released by many other 1960s instrumental artists, including Roy Haynes Al Hirt and Oscar Peterson.

Frank Sinatra included the song on his 1964 album It Might as Well Be Swing accompanied by Count Basie. The music for this album was arranged by Quincy Jones who had worked with Count Basie a year earlier on the album This Time by Basie which also included a version of "Fly Me to the Moon". Will Friedwald comments that: "Jones boosted the tempo and put it into an even four/four" for Basie's version but "when Sinatra decided to address it with the Basie/Jones combination they recharged it into a straight swinger... [which]...all but explodes with energy".

Other releases

Bart Howard estimated that by the time Frank Sinatra covered the song in 1964, more than 100 other versions had been recorded. By 1995 it had been recorded more than 300 times. A search of the website Second Hand Songs will list more than 150 versions of the song in chronological order.

Other releases include these by:

  • Harry James on his 1981 album For Listening And Dancing (Reader's Digest RD4A 213)
  • "Fly Me to the Moon" has often been used or referenced in popular culture including television shows, films and video games. In 1967 an episode of I Dream of Jeannie was titled "Fly Me to the Moon". In the 1978-82 series WKRP in Cincinnati, character Jennifer Marlowe's doorbell plays the song. In 1998 Sesame Street featured Tony Bennett performing a parody of the song for an action sequence in which the show's character Slimey the Worm took a trip to the moon. The song has been featured in film soundtracks, including the 1987 film Wall Street and the 2001 films Space Cowboys and Bridget Jones's Diary. Multiple modern recordings of "Fly Me to the Moon" were individually used as the end of each episode for the closing credits of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, as well as the basis for several background non-vocal themes used in the TV show. The song was also used extensively in the 2009 video game Bayonetta. In 2014, the song was played in the scene of the movie RoboCop where the main protagonist was waking up after being made into a cyborg.

    NASA association

    Frank Sinatra's 1964 recording of "Fly Me to the Moon" became closely associated with NASA's Apollo space program. A copy of the song was played on the Apollo 10 mission which orbited the Moon. It became the first music heard on the Moon when played on a portable cassette player by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin after he stepped onto the Moon. The song’s association with Apollo 11 was reprised many years later when Diana Krall sang it at the mission's 40th anniversary commemoration ceremony. She also sang a “slow and solemn version” in 2012 at the national memorial service for Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong.


    Fly Me to the Moon Wikipedia

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