Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moon Tunes

This week, I offer you seven days of song, in celebration of the Full Moon that falls on Saturday, August 16. Here’s a septet of my favorite tunes with “moon” in the title.

7) Moonshadow, performed and written by Cat Stevens

The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens wrote this pop hit--considered by many to be an anthem to optimism--while dancing alone in the moonlight on the Spanish seacoast. The song appeared on his 1971 album Teaser and the Firecat.

6) Fly Me to the Moon, performed by Frank Sinatra, written by Bart Howard

The boy from Hoboken practically invented cool, and he swings on this tune from his 1964 album It Might As Well Be Swing. Sinatra’s cover of the 1954 song, already recorded by Johnny Mathis and others, featured a Quincy Jones arrangement and accompaniment by Count Basie and his orchestra. When astronaut Eugene Cernan and a friend made a cassette recording of various popular tunes for Cernan to take into space on the Apollo X mission, they included Sinatra’s version.

5) Moonglow, performed by Benny Goodman, written by Hudson/Mills/DeLange

The only instrumental on my list is from the King of Swing, clarinet virtuoso Benny Goodman. An important figure in 20th century American music, he ushered in the era of swing in the 1930s and played the first jazz concert performed at Carnegie Hall. He was awarded a posthumous Grammy for “Moonglow” in 1998. Goodman’s clarinet will make you sway like a charmed snake, and Lionel Hampton’s killer vibraphone will make you hum like a tuning fork.

4) Blue Moon of Kentucky, performed by Patsy Cline, written by Bill Monroe

The immortal Patsy rollicks her way through this country music standard from bluegrass great Bill Monroe. Recorded in 1963, the year of her untimely death, it was released posthumously the following year on the album A Portrait of Patsy Cline.

3) Moondance, performed and written by Van Morrison

This warm, romantic fusion of rock and jazz is from the 1970 masterpiece album of the same name. With it, Irish bard and consummate musician Van Morrison secured his place in the pantheon of popular music.

2) Bad Moon Rising, performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, written by John Fogerty

From the 1969 album Green River, this is simple, earthy, hard-driving swamp rock from a great American band. John Fogerty’s voice had me at hello.

1) Moon River, performed by Andy Williams, written by Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer

Call me sentimental, but I can’t resist this sweet ballad and its evocation of my childhood. Famously sung by the reedy-voiced Audrey Hepburn in the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song of 1961. Andy Williams performed it at the Oscars ceremony and made the song his own. Although it’s been covered by countless artists, I remain partial to Williams’s honeyed baritone and flawless phrasing.

What’s your favorite moon-titled song? Add your comment below, and keep on shining.