Moon River (3:00)

Cover of The Finest Shirley Bassey Collection

From The Finest Shirley Bassey Collection and 15 other releases

“Moon River” is a song composed by Johnny Mercer (lyrics) and Henry Mancini (music) in 1961, for whom it won that year’s Academy Award for Best Original Song. It is most well-known for being sung in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Audrey Hepburn, although it has been covered by many other artists.

It became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded the song in 1961 and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremonies in 1962. He sang the first eight bars of the song at the beginning of his television show; he also named his production company and venue in Branson, Missouri after Moon River. Williams’ version was vetoed by Cadence president Archie Bleyer, who believed it had little or no appeal to teenagers. Williams’ famous version never charted, except as an LP track, which he recorded for Columbia in a hit album of 1962.

The success of the song 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. An inlet near Savannah, Georgia, Johnny Mercer’s hometown, was named Moon River in honor of him and this song. The popularity of the song is such that it has been used as a test sample in a study on people’s memories of popular songs.

The original version
Mercer and Mancini wrote the song for Audrey Hepburn to fit her vocal range. Initially the lyrics started, “I’m Holly, like I want to be / like Holly on a tree back home…”, however they were later changed to fit the theme to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

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