Friday, October 7, 2011

50 years ago: “Moon River” hit the chart

Moon River

Henry Mancini with Audrey Hepburn

Writer(s): Henry Mancini (music)/ Johnny Mercer (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 7, 1961

Peak: 11 US, 5 CB, 7 HR, 11 AC, 44 UK, 14 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 34.3 video, 76.11 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This song, written for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, ranks #4 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest movie songs. The movie, directed by Blake Edwards, was an adaptation of Truman Capote’s book Holly Golightly. Henry Mancini, hot off his success composing for TV’s Peter Gunn, was tapped to write the score.

When he needed, as his wife Virginia said, a “haunting song that would depict Holly Golightly as a little girl from a small town who is trying to be very sophisticated in big, bad New York City,” SS he turned to Johnny Mercer, one of his songwriting idols. Like the movie’s main character, Mercer left his home in the south for “the glittering lights of a sophisticated New York.” TC He was “firmly established as one of the great American composers” TC and co-founded Capitol Records in 1942, but hadn’t had a hit in years. SS

The result was a song which “neatly pivots on nostalgia for a lost youth and the romance of the future.” TC It “was both a little folksly and a little elegant.” JV The song won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. Over the years, three different artists took it to #1 on three different charts. The original topped the adult contemporary chart, Jerry Butler took it to #1 in New Zealand, and Danny Williams reached the pinnacle on the UK chart. WK Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, Morrissey, R.E.M., Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, and Sarah Vaughan have also recorded the song. WK

Mancini drew his musical inspiration from the script and Audrey Hepburn, the film’s star TC and “the reigning queen of Hollywood.” SS He said her “big eyes gave me the push to get a little more sentimental than I usually do.” TC After seeing the movie with Mancini’s score, Hepburn wrote him a letter, saying, “A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring.” TC


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Henry Mancini
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 667.
  • JV David Jenness and Don Velsey (2006). Classic American Popular Song. Routledge: New York, NY. Page 196.
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Pages 475-6.
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 4/10/2020; last updated 10/22/2022.

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