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Moon River

by

Henry Mancini



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

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. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2)
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.
Henry Mancini
More Henry Mancini songs
More songs with bodies of water in the title
More songs that won Grammys
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More songs about peace or tranquility
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More songs that were TV show theme songs
More songs used in movies
More songs about nature
More songs written by Johnny Mercer

Comments (23):

The beautiful harmonica solo in "Moon River" is performed by the late George Fields (nee Fishman). A much lesser harmonica player myself, I once exchanged emails with Mr. Fields. He said that Henry Mancini had him using an awkward contraption on his harmonica to pick up the sound and to add the vibrato. Mr. Fields reported that he himself was not pleased with his performance on the song and I respectfully disagreed!
- Roy, Columbus, OH
On January 11th 1965 Henry Mancini, with Andy Williams on vocals, performed "Moon River" on the NBC-TV program 'The Andy Williams Show'...
Four years earlier on October 3rd, 1961 Mr. Mancini's version entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and December 25th it peaked at #11 (for 1 week) and spent exactly a half-year on the Top 100 (26 weeks)...
Jerry Butler's covered version also entered the Top 100 on the same day as Mr. Mancini; he also reached #11 (for 1 week) but two weeks earlier on December 11th...
R.I.P. Mr. Mancini, Enrico Nicola Mancini, (1924 - 1994), Mr. Williams, born Howard Andrew Williams, (1927 - 2012) and Mr. Butler celebrated his 74th birthday one month ago on December 8th.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
I'd like to say thank you for everybody who gave any explanation of this song and lyrics. As a Hungarian I don't exactly understand certain words and phrases. The melody and the lyrics( as I begin to "capish" it) take me back into my childhood and my youthful years.here we also have a river (named "MAROS") and dreams as well.
- Kata, Makó, Hungary
When Anthony Newley and Leslie Bicusse were commissioned to write the title music for the 3rd James Bond movie they lifted the first three notes of the number one song at the time ,"Moon River" as inspiration to write "Goldfinger".
- dani, buffalo, NY
I grew up in Savannah and met Johnny Mercer. He told me he first saw Moon River while visiting the Bethesda Home for Boys which is on the river's banks. Someone once told me and I cannot verify it, that he gave some of the royalties he made to the home.
- Bill , Atlanta, GA
This song is played at the prom scene of the movie "Born on The Fourth of July". I got to play it for my 40th class reunion back in 2004......a sweet memorable moment. We'll all meet in Heaven someday! Love & Mercy...
- Adolph, Coram, NY
i have done a version which you can listen to on itunes or other downloads. google "catherine o'brien moon river". i'd like to know what you think.
- catherine, myrtleford, Australia
Andy Williams tells a funny story about this song when he performs it at his live show in Branson. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song from the movie Breakfast At Tiffany's. Andy Williams sang the song at the Academy Award Show, and it went on to win the Oscar for Mancini and Mercer. Andy's mother immediately started telling everyone that her son had won an Academy Award! Andy tried to explain it to her a couple of times, but finally gave up because, you know how mothers are.
- Nick, Grand Prairie,
The actual river in Savannah is the "Back River" off Burnside Island. Johnny Mercer grew up in a home that overlooks the "Back River". The river was an inspiration for many Johnny Mercer songs, and it wasn't until after the original words were changed that the "Back River" began being referred to as the "Moon River".
- Colby, Savannah, GA
Very beautiful song, my favourtie version is the one of the 3 Tenors : Pavarotti, Dominguez and Carrerra. The instrumental version is also good.
- Teresa, Mechelen, Belgium
The cover by Morrissey is great!
And the song is sung and danced to by Chris Noth's character Mr. Big with Sarah Jessica Parker's character Carrie on an episode of Sex & The City.
- Julia, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Jerry Butler did a fabulous version of "Moon River". His version is my favorite one.
- Farrah, Elon, NC
Louis Armstrong did a jazzy cover version of this song.
- Annabelle, Eugene, OR
The movie's producers wanted to have a "voice double" do the actual singing, but Hepburn insisted on singing it herself, and director Blake Edwards backed her up.
- Ken, Louisville, KY
The JIM REEVES version too does justice to the song in a way.
- karthik, chennai, India
Think of the moon over the ocean, making a river of light that ends where you are. It moves with you when you move in any direction..."Wherever you're going, I'm going your way"..."Two drifters, off to see the world." The moon and its river have always been a "..dream maker.." for lovers who see it. Like the myth of the rainbow's end never being found, because it moves as you move, "We're after the same rainbow's end, waiting round the bend...". These and many other references make me believe this is what it's really all about.
- Bob, San Diego, CA
lots of people have covered this song but in my opinion no one does it better than old blue eyes, frankie does it the best
- Deano, middlesbrough, England
When hearing actress Audrey Hepburn perform this song in the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's" one film producer said "get that damn song out of it". It's a good thing they kept in the movie. Audrey Hepburn is one of the most beautiful actresses to ever grace this world.
- Julian, Oakland, AR
The Afghan Whigs, among others , did a cover version of this song. It is available on the Going to Town maxi single cd.
- John, Levittown, NY
Mancini's version is mostly instrumental, but the studio singers covered the lyrics. The movie has been released with the theme in BOTH versions, with and without lyrics.
- Keith, SLC, UT
This is the first song I ever danced to with my high school boyfriend, Robert, at the Homecoming Dance 1973.
- Andrea, Chicago, IL
Played at at the beginning and end of 'Stuck on You' ....
- Georjeanne, Reston, VA
I had heard that the original title was "Here's Sunny."
- Steve, San Jose, CA
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