The moon has been a muse ever since people started writing songs and telling stories. Its universal presence in all of our lives lends itself to romance, wonder, mystery, and awe.
The close relationship between the moon and the ocean offers nearly endless opportunities for metaphors, lyrics, and all of the factors that go into beautiful songs. As a result, there are plenty of moon tunes.
Some are amazing, and some are less-than-inspired — but which are the best?
This article will cover the 6 best songs about the moon, although you’re entitled to dispute these picks. Even if some of the songs in this list aren’t your favorites, we hope you can agree that they’re beautiful in their own right. Let’s take a look.
6. “Dancing in The Moonlight” – King Harvest
“Dancing in the moonlight, everybody’s feeling warm and bright it’s such a fine and natural sight—everybody dancing in the moonlight!”
You can probably hear the song’s hook in your head when you read the title. It’s one of the most memorable songs around from a relatively unknown band.
The song is a pretty simple one as far as instrumentation goes. There’s a playful keyboard part driving the melody, a bass part that follows the keyboard, and the drums hold everything together. An electric guitar shows up minimally, apart from a short solo.
King Harvest was a 1970s New York rock band that failed to find success outside of their song “Dancing in the Moonlight.” The band was unlucky in the way of management, and despite a few attempts at further success, King Harvest never made another successful song or album.
After the band dissolved, some of its members filled in with the Beach Boys or played with members of that group in their respective solo projects.
Still, it’s hard to ignore this one-hit-wonders crown jewel. It’s been 50 years since it came out, and you know it still gets your toe tappin’ in the grocery aisle.
It’s worth noting that there’s another song with the same title by the band Thin Lizzy, released four years later. It’s a different and great song, although not quite as classic as King Harvest’s.
5. “Pink Moon” – Nick Drake
“Pink Moon,” the title track of Nick Drake’s last album, is his most famous and enduring song. It highlights the unique virtuosity of his guitar playing and the timelessness of his voice, both dancing under the song’s dominant symbol — a pink moon.
It’s hard to say exactly the song’s intended meaning, although some speculate it foreshadowed Drake’s untimely passing. Still, “Pink Moon” is one of those special songs that doesn’t need to be understood exactly.
The language of his guitar and piano playing resonates with his poetry in a way that’s easy for the listener to understand for themselves. The symbol of the pink moon is potent enough for listeners to take millions of different meanings, which is why “Pink Moon” is number five on our list.
4. “Moon River” – Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer
“Moon River” was a song composed for the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. First performed by Audrey Hepburn in the film, the song has since been covered and reinterpreted thousands of times by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Frank Ocean, Jacob Collier, and many more.
Its simple melody is melancholy, hopeful, and a little romantic. There are only two verses in the song, both repeated twice.
The words offer a glimpse into a relationship between the writer, a “huckleberry friend,” and the Moon River. Much like Huckleberry Fin, the characters in the song are sailing down life’s river, waiting to see where it takes them.
The symbol of the “moon river” could be interpreted in many ways, but it’s largely considered to be a metaphor for life’s uncertain and moody passage in the company of love.
3. “Moonlight Sonata” – Ludwig van Beethoven
“Moonlight Sonata” is one of Beethoven’s simplest, saddest, and most beloved songs. A lot of classical music is emotionally inaccessible to many people. It’s often long, complex, and exciting but difficult to engage with.
“Moonlight Sonata” is simple and complex all at once, and it’s so well-written that it’s easy to understand and deeply profound. There are no words, and it’s difficult to describe the music in words because it transcends them.
Its sadness might come from Beethoven’s inability to hear the song as he wrote it. By the time he was writing “Moonlight Sonata,” he was either completely deaf or nearly deaf.
He continued to write amazing music long after he lost his hearing because he could conceptualize and “hear” incredible soundscapes in his mind. Still, he was one of the most brilliant composers and musicians ever born, and fate would have it that he would lose the sense he most needed to appreciate his craft.
It’s difficult to imagine what that would feel like, but we can empathize with it when we listen to “Moonlight Sonata.” It’s a song that will likely outlast everyone on this list, stirring the same emotions for every person who listens.
Still, it’s not exactly about the moon. For that reason, it’s not our number one.
2. “Harvest Moon” – Neil Young
Neil Young has more than a few genuinely great songs, but few resonate with as many people as “Harvest Moon” does. “Old Man,” “Heart of Gold,” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” are comparable, but “Harvest Moon” is a little different.
Simply put, the song is about the late stages of love. The moon symbolizes love, so the harvest moon symbolizes “love’s autumn.”
The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the fall equinox. When you listen to the song, you can imagine a couple rounding the end of middle age, deeply in love, and dancing as they reflect on everything they’ve been through together.
The song is about mature, longstanding love. It depicts a fall night, where a couple feels inspired to get out and “feel the night.” Before they get where they’re going, Young says, “because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again. Because I’m still in love with you, on this harvest moon.”
If the song doesn’t hit you in the sweet spot quite yet, you might want to revisit it in a few decades when you’re under your own harvest moon, metaphorically speaking.
1. “Fly Me To The Moon” – Bart Howard
This infamous song is often associated with Frank Sinatra, as copies of his version were played at integral moments during the Apollo 10 and Apollo 11 missions. In the latter instance, the song was played just before the first actual moon landing.
The prelude to humanity’s first steps on the moon is more than worthy of the top spot in this list! Still, it’s worth noting that Sinatra didn’t write the song, which wasn’t even written for him.
Bart Howard composed the tune in 1954, and singer Kay Ballard first performed it. Howard had been struggling to reach fame, writing songs intended for his idols and hoping they’d get their hands on them one day.
Eventually, he landed on the song “In Other Words,” which was the original title. That was enough to solidify his name in music history. It was covered numerous times before it reached Sinatra, but Old Blue Eyes perfected it with help from an arrangement by Quincy Jones.
The song’s theme balances the extravagant and other-worldly idea of flying to the moon with the simple kiss gesture. The two ideas are casually joined by the phrase “in other words.” The singer asks their beloved to fly them to the moon simply by holding them close or kissing them.
It’s an exciting tribute to the power of love and the wonder of the moon solidified in human history as the anthem of our first explorations into outer space.
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