" is a classic popular song
. It was written by Richard Rodgers
and Lorenz Hart
, and has become a standard ballad
. The song is the fans anthem of English Premier League club Manchester City
The lyrics are presumed to refer to an English idiomatic expression: a blue moon
is either the second full moon in a month or the third one when four full moons occur in one season of the year, which is a somewhat rare occurrence. If something happens "once in a blue moon" it almost never happens. 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.
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were contracted to MGM
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 Jean'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 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, was registered for copyright as an unpublished work on July 10 1933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was also titled It's Just That Kind Of Play, was cut from the film before release, and registered for copyright as an unpublished work on March 30 1934.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 made up in blackface. 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".
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 Columbia Records. It subsequently was featured in at least seven more MGM films including the Marx Brothers' At the Circus and Viva Las Vegas.
Recordings after 1934
Since 1934, the song has been recorded by many performers. A partial list follows:
- Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting (TV series)
- Louis Armstrong
- Daniel Ash (1991, as an intro to his first solo album after leaving the bands Love and Rockets and Bauhaus)
- Tony Bennett, with Ella Fitzgerald
- Connee Boswell
- Sam Cooke (one of three different versions used in the 1982 film An American Werewolf in London)
- Course of Empire, Texas band (1998, on their third album)
- Cowboy Junkies, a Canadian band, on their 1988 album The Trinity Session. Their version combined the song into a Medley with an original song written by the band.
- Da Vinci's Notebook, Virginia a cappella band (1997, on their first album, as an a cappella song)
- Tommy Emmanuel, Australian virtuoso guitarist, on his album Initiation (1995), recorded without vocals.
- Dizzy Gillespie
- Billie Holiday
- Chris Isaak
- Komety, Polish rockabilly band (2002, on their debut album)
- Frankie Laine & Michel Legrand
- Ivan Lins, Brazilian composer and singer, on his 1991 album Ivan Lins 20 anos, combined into a medley with two other songs written by Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins.
- Julie London
- Helmut Lotti, Belgian singer (2007, on his "crooners CD")
- The Marcels (in a doo-wop version, see below; this was one of three different versions used in the 1982 film An American Werewolf in London)
- Dean Martin
- Vaughn Monroe
- Samantha Mumba (2002, on her second album, Woman)
- Orange and Lemons, OPM band, (2006). This version served as the theme song of the movie of the same name.
- Lee Perry's Upsetters (1971)
- Django Reinhardt pitching in with the most famous jazz versions.
- Amalia Rodrigues, in Fado style
- Frank Sinatra
- Jo Stafford
- The Supremes (on their 1967 album The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart)
- Mel Tormé
- Pedro Vargas, Mexican tenor (in a Spanish translation as Luna Azul, which became a great success in Latin America)
- Vazelina Bilopphøggers, a Norwegian band, (1983) as Blå lys (literally: Emergency vehicle lighting) with Norwegian lyrics about drunk driving. Blå lys' was also the title of the album.
- Bobby Vinton (one of three different versions used in the 1982 film An American Werewolf in London)
- The Ventures
- Sha Na Na
Mel Tormé's version was the only one that actually reached the Billboard magazine charts; it was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 15428. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on April 8, 1949 and lasted 5 weeks on the chart, peaking at #20. The record was a two-sided hit, as the flip side "Again" also charted.
Rock and Roll adaptations
The first crossover recording to rock and roll came from Elvis Presley, but the version that really stirred things up came from The Marcels, a doo-wop group. In 1961 the Marcels had 3 songs to record and needed one more. Producer Stu Phillips did not like any of the other songs except one that had the same 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 #1 on the Billboard Pop chart for three weeks, sold a million copies, and is featured in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
In 1967, Eric Clapton used a portion of the song in his guitar solo from Cream's hit "Sunshine of Your Love." Bob Dylan covered the song on his Self Portrait album in 1970. In 1978, an arrangement by Jeff Funk was used in the film Grease. This has been followed by a country version from The Mavericks. More recently, it has been recorded by Rod Stewart. Cybill Shepherd sang "Blue Moon" on an episode of Moonlighting (the detective agency in that show was called "Blue Moon Investigations".)
- Brent, Bill. 'The Story of Blue Moon', Weekly Bugle Retrieved June 6 2005
- Hart, Lorenzo; Hart, Dorothy; Kimball, Robert. The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart (New York: Knopf, 1986). ISBN 0-394-54680-6
- Kanfer, Stefan. 'Richard Rodgers: Enigma Variations', City Journal, Autumn 2003.
- Martini, Alessandro. 'Song: Blue Moon', LorenzHart.org Retrieved June 6 2005
- Moser, Enoch. 'A Tribute to Richard Rodgers', Community Band of Brevard (2002) Retrieved June 6 2005.