The music arrangement was composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics for ‘Moon River’. The song won the 1962 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The lyrics were inspired by a river that ran near Mercer’s family’s summer home, the Vernon River. However, since Vernon is not a very lyrical name, Johnny pulled out a map of the region and found a ‘Moon River’ north of Savannah in Bluffton, South Carolina. The lyrics were based on his idyllic childhood in Savannah, summering on the coast and picking huckleberries with his cousin on the banks of the Vernon River his ‘huckleberry friend’. He dreamed of his future life and how he would leave his home and river ‘old dream maker, you heart breaker’, but regardless of how far he goes, he has the same goal as that river ‘Wherever you’re going, I’m goin’ your way’ and ‘We’re after the same Rainbow’s end’. He left that sweet, simple life for a life in show biz, living in New York and Hollywood – his cousin also left to pursue a career ‘two drifters’. Upon his return to Savannah after his success, he drove across the bridge in his brand-new Buick ‘crossing you in style someday’, fulfilling his dream.
Huckleberry is a name used for blueberries, bilberries and whortleberries. Moon River gives the listener a look into the past and the future, as the river represents time and a journey for two drifters from start to finish. It’s about life and their hopes to venture through a world that they can’t see. The river is flowing round the bend into the unseen future, while the singer and his friend are excited to be going on the journey of life together. Some of Mercer’s other songs include, Accentuate the Positive, Days Of Wine and Roses, Fools Rush In, I’m An Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande), In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening, Jeepers Creepers, One For My Baby (And One More For The Road, That Old Black Magic and You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby.
Mercer and Mancini wrote the song for Audrey Hepburn to sing in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In 1993, following Hepburn’s death, her version was released on an album titled Music from the Films of Audrey Hepburn. In 2004, Hepburn’s version finished at #4 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. In 1942, Mercer founded Capitol Records in Hollywood and he wrote the lyrics or the music to around 1,500 songs. In 1945, Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers recorded ‘Accentuate the Positive’ which became a big hit where the music was written by Harold Arlen and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Ray Charles had a big hit with Johnny’s song ‘Georgia On My Mind’.
Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ‘round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me
Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the theme is Drifter/Loner/Transient/Vagabond.
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