Blue Moon (1934 song)

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"Blue Moon"
Published 1935
Composer(s) Richard Rodgers
Lyricist(s) Lorenz Hart

"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, the Supremes and Rod Stewart.

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

Rodgers and Hart[edit]


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[1]) and MGM Song #225 "Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)" dated June 14, 1933, was registered for copyright as an unpublished work on July 10, 1933.[2]

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".[3] 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was also titled "It's Just That Kind of Play", was cut from the film before release, and registered for copyright as an unpublished work on March 30, 1934, the studio then asked for a nightclub number for the film.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"[3]), which was sung by Shirley Ross. The song, which was also released as sheet music, was not a hit.[2]

After the film was released by MGM, Jack Robbins—the head of the studio's publishing company[4]—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,[2] 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."[5]

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.[2]

Billy Eckstine version[edit]

"Blue Moon"
Single by Billy Eckstine
B-side "Fools Rush In"
Released 1949
Format 10-inch 78 rpm record
Recorded 1949
Genre Jazz
Label MGM
Songwriter(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart[6]


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.[7][8]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1949) Peak
U.S. Billboard 21

Mel Tormé version[edit]

"Blue Moon"
Single by Mel Tormé
B-side "Again"
Released 1949
Format 10-inch 78 rpm record
Recorded 1949
Genre Jazz
Label Capitol
Songwriter(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart[6]


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.[7][9]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1949) Peak
U.S. Billboard 20

Elvis Presley version[edit]

"Blue Moon"
Single by Elvis Presley
from the album Elvis Presley
A-side "Just Because"
Released August 31, 1956
Format 7-inch single
Recorded August 19, 1954
Genre Country
Length 2:31
Label RCA Victor/ RCA Camden/ RCA
Songwriter(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart[6]


"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.

Marcels version[edit]

"Blue Moon"
Single by The Marcels
from the album Blue Moon
B-side "Goodbye to Love"
Released February 1961
Format 7-inch single
Recorded 1961
Genre Rock and roll, doo-wop, R&B
Length 2:15
Label Colpix
Songwriter(s) Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart[6]
Producer(s) Stu Phillips, Danny Winchell[10][11]
The Marcels singles chronology
"Blue Moon"
"Blue Moon"


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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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.

Richard Rodgers, the writer of the music for the song, was reportedly infuriated by The Marcels' arrangement of the piece and allegedly wrote an open letter unsuccessfully urging the public to boycott the record. Rodgers's widow later denied that this was the case, and the letter, if it ever existed, has since been lost.[15]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1961) Peak
UK Singles Chart[16] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 1
US R&B Singles[13] 1
Preceded by
"Wooden Heart" by Elvis Presley
UK number-one single
(The Marcels version)

May 4–11, 1961 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"On the Rebound" by Floyd Cramer

Mavericks version[edit]


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.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1995) Peak
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[18] 15
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[19] 57

Rod Stewart version[edit]


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.[20]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2005) Peak
U.S. Adult Contemporary Chart 23

Other versions[edit]

Choral adaptations[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Italian singer Carlo Buti on 17 September 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[edit]

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 an instrumental cover of this for their 2016 album "Cocktail Classics".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ These Were Our Songs: The Early 30s, The Readers Digest Association, 4 CD set, 1989, liner notes
  2. ^ a b c d Brent, Bill. 'The Story of Blue Moon', Weekly Bugle. Retrieved June 6, 2005.
  3. ^ a b Kanfer, Stefan. 'Richard Rodgers: Enigma Variations', City Journal, Autumn 2003.
  4. ^ Martini, Alessandro. 'Song: Blue Moon', Retrieved June 6, 2005.
  5. ^ Rod Stewart, Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III, CD, J-Records, 2004. Oddly, the introduction lyrics are not listed on the CD's lyric sheet, but Stewart does sing them in the song)
  6. ^ a b c d Hart, Lorenzo; Hart, Dorothy; Kimball, Robert. The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart (New York: Knopf, 1986). ISBN 0-394-54680-6
  7. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Record Research. 
  8. ^ "Billy Eckstine| Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  9. ^ "Mel Tormé | Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  10. ^ "The Marcels - Blue Moon (Song)". eMedia Jungen. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  11. ^ Oermann, Robert K. (21 February 2011). "Radio Host Danny Winchell Passes". MusicRow. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  12. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits: The Inside Story Behind Every Number One Single on Billboard's Hot 100 from 1955 to the Present (5 ed.). Billboard Books. p. 87. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6. 
  13. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 376. 
  14. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 137. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  15. ^ The Marcels By Marv Goldberg Marv Goldberg 2006. 2009.
  16. ^ "ChartArchive - The Chart Archive". Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  17. ^ "The Marcels | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  18. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 2769." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. October 9, 1995. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  19. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 2758." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. September 18, 1995. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  20. ^ "Rod Stewart - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  21. ^ "Jimmy Bowen, "My Kind of Woman" Single Release". Retrieved December 17, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Liam Gallagher & Beady Eye Reveal Manchester City Home 2011". YouTube. 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 

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