Moon River

Album: Moon River And Other Music Themes (1961)
Charted: 44 11
Play Video


  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Eberhard Hasche - Berlin, Germany
  • In 1962, Mancini told Disc magazine: "I reckon I'll have made around $100,000 on 'Moon River' within the next two years or so. It took me about 30 minutes to compose. It had to be in keeping with the character of Holly Golightly, the star of Breakfast at Tiffany's, and I had to bear in mind the limitations of Audrey Hepburn's voice. I worked the whole song round a simple guitar basis, although the guitar isn't heard much during the number."
  • Originally, Mercer wrote this with lyrics that started, "I'm Holly" (after Hepburn's character Holly Golightly), but the words didn't seem right.
  • The South African singer Danny Williams took this song 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 owned 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Terry - Willmar, MN
  • This won the Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Arrangement, while Breakfast at Tiffany's took the clumsily titled Best Performance By An Orchestra For Other Than Dancing and Best Sound Track Album Or Recording Of Score From Motion Picture Or Television - awards that went to Mancini. He repeated his wins for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1963 with "Days Of Wine And Roses." Mancini won a total of 20 Grammy Awards.
  • Henry Mancini also wrote the score to Breakfast at Tiffany's, earning him the Oscar for Best Score while "Moon River" took the award for Best Song. Mancini had one Oscar nomination to this point: for writing the score to The Glenn Miller Story.

    The year after winning the two awards for Breakfast at Tiffany's, he and Johnny Mercer again won the Best Song Oscar, this time for "Days Of Wine And Roses" from the film of the same name. Mancini's only other Oscar win came in 1982 for his work on Victor/Victoria, which won for Best Adaptation Score. Other movies Mancini wrote for include The Pink Panther and Love Story.
  • Uncertain Hepburn could pull off a satisfactory singing performance, Paramount considered dubbing her vocals until Mancini came up with "Moon River." He watched the actress sing "How Long Has This Been Going On" in the film Funny Face and composed a piece that suited her range.
  • The song almost didn't make it into the movie. After a preview screening, the studio decided the screenplay was too long and wanted to cut the iconic scene. Paramount president Marty Rackin put it bluntly: "Well, the f--cking song has to go." Mancini's widow, Ginny, recalled in a BBC interview: "I saw Henry go pale. We were all stunned, totally stunned. We were quiet for a minute or two and then there was a barrage of reasons why it should stay in the film and cuts should be made in other areas."

    When Rackin told Hepburn he was cutting the song, she allegedly exclaimed, "Over my dead body!"
  • Mancini and Mercer worked on the song separately. After Mancini had the melody, he sent it to Mercer, who wrote the lyrics. They played it for the first time in the empty ballroom of the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel in Los Angeles, where Mancini was rehearsing for a benefit concert.

Comments: 29

  • Paul from TxIn a late night TV interview just a few years or so before his death, Mancini shared the moment Mercer called him to get his opinion of the line 'my Huckleberry Friend' and Mancini said, "it was like the hair stood up on the back of my neck."
  • Donna from Longmeadow, MaJust, simply beautiful...Made my day. Thank you.
  • Reginald Boaler from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada I loved reading these facts regarding this song, the artists and the background behind the scenes. I have always adored this magnificent song and am always amazed with songwriters who can just create such masterpieces so effortlessly. Thank you for sharing this with us!
  • Frederic from VirginiaSo Paramount president Marty Rackin wanted to cut this song from the movie. MGM executives cut “Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz three times, thinking it slowed the pace of their overly long movie before being shouted down.
  • Tombkkth from Bangkok ThaialndThe music for the film Love Story was composed by Francis Lai.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 26th 1969, Henry Mancini performed "Love Theme from 'Romeo & Juliet'" and "Peter Gunn" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    Just over five months earlier on April 29th, 1969 "Romeo & Juliet" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #71; and 7 weeks later on June 22nd, 1969 it peaked at #1 {for 2 weeks} and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    The two weeks it was at #1 it prevented "Bad Moon Rising" by C.C.R. and "Spinning Wheel" by B.S.&T. from reaching #1, both those songs peaked at #2...
    On the same 'Sullivan' show he also performed "Peter Gunn"; a song that he composed and in 1959 a covered version by Ray Anthony & his Orch. peaked at #8 on the Top 100...
    R.I.P. Mr. Mancini, born Enrico Nicola Mancini, {1924 - 1994} and Mr. Anthony, born Raymond Antonini, will celebrate his 93rd birthday in three months on January 20 {2015}.
  • Roy from Columbus, OhThe 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!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn 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.
  • Kata from Makó, HungaryI'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 we also have a river (named "MAROS") and dreams as well.
  • Dani from Buffalo, NyWhen 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".
  • Bill from Atlanta, GaI 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.
  • Adolph from Coram, NyThis 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...
  • Catherine from Myrtleford, Australiai 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.
  • Nick from Grand Prairie,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.
  • Colby from Savannah, GaThe 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".
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumVery beautiful song, my favourtie version is the one of the 3 Tenors : Pavarotti, Dominguez and Carrerra. The instrumental version is also good.
  • Julia from Buenos Aires, ArgentinaThe 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.
  • Farrah from Elon, NcJerry Butler did a fabulous version of "Moon River". His version is my favorite one.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrLouis Armstrong did a jazzy cover version of this song.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThe 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.
  • Karthik from Chennai, IndiaThe JIM REEVES version too does justice to the song in a way.
  • Bob from San Diego, CaThink 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.
  • Deano from Middlesbrough, Englandlots of people have covered this song but in my opinion no one does it better than old blue eyes, frankie does it the best
  • Julian from Oakland, ArWhen 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.
  • John from Levittown, NyThe Afghan Whigs, among others , did a cover version of this song. It is available on the Going to Town maxi single cd.
  • Keith from Slc, UtMancini'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.
  • Andrea from Chicago, IlThis is the first song I ever danced to with my high school boyfriend, Robert, at the Homecoming Dance 1973.
  • Georjeanne from Reston, VaPlayed at at the beginning and end of 'Stuck on You' ....
  • Steve from San Jose, CaI had heard that the original title was "Here's Sunny."
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Jack Tempchin - "Peaceful Easy Feeling"

Jack Tempchin - "Peaceful Easy Feeling"They're Playing My Song

When a waitress wouldn't take him home, Jack wrote what would become one of the Eagles most enduring hits.

Marc Campbell - "88 Lines About 44 Women"

Marc Campbell - "88 Lines About 44 Women"They're Playing My Song

The Nails lead singer Marc Campbell talks about those 44 women he sings about over a stock Casio keyboard track. He's married to one of them now - you might be surprised which.

Terry Jacks ("Seasons in the Sun")

Terry Jacks ("Seasons in the Sun")Songwriter Interviews

Inspired by his dear friend, "Seasons in the Sun" paid for Terry's boat, which led him away from music and into a battle with Canadian paper mills.

Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt On How To Create A Music Scene

Sub Pop Founder Bruce Pavitt On How To Create A Music SceneSong Writing

With $50 and a glue stick, Bruce Pavitt created Sub Pop, a fanzine-turned-label that gave the world Nirvana and grunge. He explains how motivated individuals can shift culture.

Adam Young of Owl City

Adam Young of Owl CitySongwriter Interviews

Is Owl City on a quest for another hit like "Fireflies?" Adam answers that question and explains the influences behind many others.

Elton John

Elton JohnFact or Fiction

Does he have beef with Gaga? Is he Sean Lennon's godfather? See if you can tell fact from fiction in the Elton John edition.