In honor of the blue moon tonight I thought it would be fun to share some musical theatre trivia. This last fall I had the pleasure digging deep into the story of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Rodgers and Hart greatly contributed to the American songbook and is considered one of the greatest writing teams of the 20th century.
Their story was similar to many New York songwriters during the 20s and the 30s. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, writing music for Broadway and Tin Pan Alley wasn’t as lucrative anymore, so they moved to where the work was – Hollywood. With the invent of the talking picture, movie musicals were the rage! Once in Hollywood, Rodgers and Hart got hired by MGM to be on their writing staff and started working on a variety of movies. One such musical was called Manhattan Melodrama where they wrote a song titled “The Bad in Every Man”. It wasn’t that great and the movie was easily forgotten. Rodgers really liked the melody for the song however and would keep coming back to it.
Lorenz or “Larry” Hart was known to be very smart with his lyrics and even got the nickname of “Shakespeare”. His lyrics are some of the most profound and poetic of the era. So, when the song “The Bad in Every Man” was brought back up by Rodgers for Larry to rewrite the lyrics he was offended. A friend who was with Rodgers and Hart at the time suggested to Larry to write lyrics that were more popular for the time and simpler to understand. Sarcastically, Hart replied by saying “You mean, write lyrics with june and moon in it.” And they both said “Yes!” That was the birth of the song we now know as “Blue Moon”. Larry hated the final version of the song but it was one of the most successful songs of their career.
Below I have combined a few videos together to make a medley of Blue Moon over the years. The beginning of the video starts with the original version of the song from Manhattan Melodrama and then it shifts to the fabulous Ella Fitzgerald, then a little Frank Sinatra, and ends with the 1961 #1 hit sung by the Marcels. Hope you enjoy!!