It is hard to believe that this year will mark ten years of maritial bliss for me. For our wedding song we had Etta James’ “At Last”. However, a song that probably means even more to me is the number we used for our closing – Andy Williams’ recording of “Moon River”. The song is one of my favorite songs from the 1960s.
“Moon River” is a song composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer. It received an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its first performance by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. It also won Mancini the 1962 Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Mercer the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.[ Since its original performance, the song has been covered by many other artists.
It became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded it in 1961 and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremonies in 1962. He sang the first eight bars at the beginning of his eponymous television show and named his production company and venue in Branson, Missouri after it. Williams' version never charted, except as an LP track, which he recorded for Columbia in a hit album of 1962. Cadence Records' president Archie Bleyer disliked Williams' version, as Bleyer believed it had little or no appeal to teenagers.
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 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 song have noted that it is particularly reminiscent of Mercer's youth in the Southern United States. An inlet near Savannah, Georgia, Johnny Mercer's hometown, was named Moon River in honor of him and this song.
"Moon River" was a hit single for Jerry Butler in late 1961, reaching number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December, two weeks before Mancini's recording reached the same spot. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, South African singer Danny Williams had a hit version of the song that reached number one in the UK in the final week of 1961. Although Andy Williams never released the song as a single, his LP Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes, released in the spring of 1962, was certified Gold in October 1963 for sales grossing over $1 million.
Countless singers have recorded the songs through the generations. Andy William’s version is my favorite, but other great versions have been recorded by Louis Armstrong, Perry Como, Patti Page, and even by composer Johnny Mercer. Mercer recorded it on his last album “My Huckleberry Friend” in 1974. The song had different meaning when it was written for Audrey Hepburn, but to me it is a song about two people who have found each other, who fall in love, and who choose to face the world together. At least that is what happened to me ten years ago…