This was used as Audrey Hepburn's theme song in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. Hepburn sings the song in the movie, but the version used on the soundtrack was an instrumental by Henry Mancini and his orchestra. This version was released as a single, as was a vocal version by Jerry Butler which also went to #11 in the US near the end of 1961. Hepburn's version was not released until after her death in 1993 when it appeared on the album Music From The Films of Audrey Hepburn.
Mancini wrote this song with lyricist Johnny Mercer. The original title was "Blue River," but Mercer found out another songwriter was using that title.
Moon River is a real river in Savannah, Georgia where Mercer grew up. His home overlooked the river and he had fond memories of the place. At the time, the river was known as The Back River, but was renamed Moon River in honor of the song, and Johnny Mercer's home along the river became known as the Moon River House. (thanks, Eberhard Hasche - Berlin, Germany)
Originally, Mercer wrote this with lyrics that started, "I'm Holly" (after Hepburn's character Holly Golightly), but the words didn't seem right.
South African singer Danny Williams took this to #1 in the UK in late 1961. Williams originally refused to sing it, saying that Johnny Mercer's lyrics were nonsensical. But he saw the film and was so moved by it that he relented. Williams died of cancer on 6th December 2005.
The American singer Andy Williams recorded a popular version of this song. He used this as the theme music for his TV variety show, which ran from 1962-1967. Williams owns the Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri.
The line, "My huckleberry friend" is often thought to be a reference to Huckleberry Finn, a character in Mark Twain's book Tom Sawyer
. However, in his autobiography
, Johnny Mercer said it was in reference to a childhood friend of his. He used to pick huckleberries with him down by a lazy river near his home in Georgia. (thanks, Terry - Willmar, MN)
Henry Mancini was a leading composer of music for films and movies, winning 20 Grammy Awards, including 5 for the music to Breakfast At Tiffany's. Other movies he wrote for include The Pink Panther, Days Of Wine And Roses and Love Story. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
This won a Grammy award for Record of the Year.
Mancini wrote the tune within Audrey Hepburn's vocal range so she could sing it.