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Best Cover Songs 3 - Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)
Fly me to the Moon
Fly me to the moon,
and let me play among the stars...
Doesn't matter how often we hear the tune, it always reaches deep. It conveys such an wonderful emotion of happy abandon, a celebration of love for life and for each other.
No wonder many artists have fallen over themselves to cover this wonderful track, often to great success and mellifluous results. Just like our previous contenders ' You're always on my mind' and ' Will you still love me tomorrow', this song is up there with the greats in its longevity, its everlasting spirit and sheer joie de vivre.
The simple but effective lyrics capture so much with so little. It is no wonder that it has captivated many hearts and still does.
Kaye Ballard's first recording
Previous Chapters in this series...
In Other Words, in other worlds!
It is worth remembering however, at its first release in 1954 it wasn't called ' Fly me to the moon'. The track was called 'In other words'.
It was only two years later that publishers changed its title officially to 'Fly me to the Moon' after a Johnny Matthis cover took it to new heights. Due to the title change it has also been closely linked to our space race, as it is rumoured that Buzz Aldrin played it during the Apollo mission and moon landing.
It is rather ironic that more than 40 years later, Buzz Aldrin danced to the very same tune in the programme ' Dancing with the Stars'.
Written by composer and lyricist Bart Howard in 1954, it was first played in the cabaret circuits by Felicia Sanders and enjoyed such popular success it soon received the attention of recording artists.
The honour of first recording goes to singer Kaye Ballard for Decca records in 1954. Unverified accounts suggest over 300 artists have since covered this wonderful tune. Here compiled for the first time in one place for your delectation are some of the best versions of this song.
Johnny Mathis version
Year after year
The popularity of the song meant that recording artists such as Chris Connor (1955),Portia Nelson (1956) followed year on year with their cover versions.
Listeners started referring to the song as 'Fly me to the Moon' and the record labels made the official title change when Johnny Mathis did his version in 1956. Johnny's unique vocal style lends itself beautifully to this tune, taking the listener on a journey into their own hearts. It is magical, mystical and majestic.
Songstresses such as Eydie Gormé , April Stevens and Nancy Wilson followed suit. It was then Peggy Lee ( of 'Fever' fame) did a rendition in an Ed Sullivan show special that spun the tune further out of orbit into stratosphere.
This particular TV show was a pilot to showcase different cities of America and featured San Francisco and its songs. The show was called See America for Ed Sullivan for CBS. Interestingly, the guest list on that show broadcast on 16/10/60 also featured Johnny Mathis.
Nat King Cole
Peggy Lee's recorded version was featured in her album Pretty Eyes for Capitol records in 1960.
Nat King Cole recorded his version for the popular album Nat King Cole Sings, George Shearing Plays for the same record company.
Featuring the famous pianist George Shearing and arranged by Ralph Carmichael, this 1962 studio album is considered one of Nat King Cole's best. It features many popular numbers such as 'Let there be love', 'September song', 'Game of Love', 'Dont Go' etc.
Shearing's beautiful piano accompaniment and the string quartet add a certain vibrancy and grandeur to Cole's strong vocals. He also sings the entire lyrics and adds his own pace.
Joe Harnell's Bossa Nova
Roy Haynes Jazz Waltz version
Nat King Cole's version was followed by a lovely rendition by singer Sarah Vaughan for her album You're Mine You in the same year. This was orchestrated by Quincy Jones.
Singer -performer Mel Tormé followed it up with his version for his album 'Mel Tormé at the Red Hill'.
Perhaps the most famous instrumental version to hit the charts ( No:4 in easy listening charts) was conducted by musician Joe Harnell. His 'Bossa Nova' version was a hit with the listeners and enjoyed much repeat play.
A Waltz instrumental version was recorded by drummer Roy Haynes soon after and enjoyed popularity too. The album was called Out of the Afternoon (1962)
Dinah Washington, Joni James, Jack Jones all followed with their versions. Brenda Lee recorded a cover of fly me to the moon for her album All Alone Am I (1963) and this was swiftly followed by Shirley Bassey's rendition called once again, ' In other words'.
The list of singers follows a veritable who's who of notable sixties and seventies singers such as Patti Page, Anita O' Day, June Christy, Perry Como and Earl Grant.
During the height of his sixties career, handsome Jack Jones recorded a version of the song. His strong classic vocals and his Jazz background give an extra mellifluous lilt to the lyrics. Thought it wasn't released as a single, this version is well worth a listen.
Sexy siren Julie London covered the song with her smoky vocals for her album the End of the World. This featured a slightly different, catchy introduction and a variation of the jazz theme, conducted by Ernie Freeman.
This upbeat and faster rhythm is catchy and demonstrates how the lyrics lend themselves to varying musical themes effortlessly.
Connie Francis brought further fame to the already popular song by recording it in Italian, Neapolitan ( Both called Portami con Te) and in Spanish ( Llevame La Luna) .
The song sounds as beautiful in another language as it does in English as the simple lyrics translate well into other languages.
Both versions bring a certain extra oomph to the song that tends to happen when romantic languages are involved. Be it French, Spanish or Italian I always feel an extra kick listening to familiar songs in unfamiliar languages.
Frank & Antonio
Ol' Blue Eyes
Perhaps one of the best known versions as popularized by Frank Sinatra was recorded in 1964 arranged by Quincy Jones. The song was given a lounge, swing feel by changing the time signature. It was a popular hit for Frank who revisited the song in 1966.
In 1994 when Frank did his Duets II album, he was joined by singer Antonio Carlos Jobim for another memorable rendition. The latter brings some extra hummable rhythm to the version with some beautiful sax accompaniment. Although Frank jazzes it up for the modern ears, some of the old magic is missing when you compare them side by side.
Doris Day recorded the song for her album Latin for Lovers. The version has the unmistakable Doris Day signature vocals, a gentle rhythm paced to reflect her style.
Other singers such as Neil Sedaka, Astrud Gilberto, Tony Bennett and German Eurovision contestant Heidi Brühl who later moved to American TV and singing fame all covered the song.
Magical Marvin Gaye lends his unique vocals to this version recorded and released in 1985 for his album Romantically Yours ( you don't say!).
There is a clear 'eighties' feel as the song moves to its third decade. thirty years on it still manages to be reinterpreted, retuned and recaptures the spirit of love.
Post Millenial Reinvention
The song went into a hiatus in the nineties and re-emerged triumphantly in 2000 when Japanese- american Singer Utadu Hikaru made several beautiful remixes of the song.
The song traveled east with amazing alacrity and became extremely popular after being featured in the Japanese Anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion and its feature film versions. Over thirty versions of the song were used in this series, bringing the tune firmly into the millennium for a new generation of fans. The song also featured in the Japanese/American video Game Bayonetta throughout the game as well as over the end credits.
Agnetha & Diana
ABBA singer Agnetha covered the song for her solo album ' My coloring book'. It is nice to hear her vocals deliver the lilting lyrics. This was released in 2004 after a self imposed hiatus of 17 years. It was a wonderful return to singing as a solo artist. You can hear the tune here.
Around the same time UK boyband Westlife also covered the track for their Sinatra tribute album 'Allow us be Frank'.
Diana Krall covered it in 2002 for her album Live In Paris. In 2009, she performed the song for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission at the Smithsonian Space Museum in front of an audience that included the three astronauts from the mission. The song has been associated with the triumphant moon landing by US astronauts throughout its history and perhaps may feature again in our future when we play amongst Jupiter and Mars!
Willie Nelson, an American classic himself, recorded his own cover version for his album entitled American classic in 2009.
Following a similar theme, Rod Stewart released his cover for his album The Great American Songbook Volume V.
Both bring a certain freshness to the old classic with differing musical arrangements. It is amazing how adaptable these wonderful lyrics can be. I wonder if Bart Howard realized how enduring and resilient his song was going to be when he wrote it.
TV and Film
Not only as a record career, the song has also been used and reused in many different film and TV series. Some of which are listed below.
As recent as 2011 it was recorded by Grace Potter for the nostalgic TV series Pan Am. Sadly this show has since been cancelled.
Olivia Ong, in her debut album 'A girl meets bossa nova' gives a captivating version of the song.
TV and Film appearances
TV Series, Video Game or Film
See America with Ed Sullivan ( 1960)
Space Cowboys (2000)
Down With Love (2003)
Sinatra & Astrud Gilberto
3rd Rock from the Sun
Mad Men (2007)
Ep 11 Season 1
You're Beautiful ( South Korean TV drama)
Jang Geun Suk
Dancing With Stars ( 10th series)
In house band
Buzz Aldrin and Ashly Costa danced
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Bayonetta ( game)
And to play us out...
And to play us out, the simple, elegant, acoustic version as sung by Jason Mraz. I am sure you'll like this heartfelt, unadorned rendition for all its emotion and simplicity.
Wonder what more versions await in the future. Until then, Let me play among the stars...
Copyright © Mohan Kumar 2012
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- Poem: Forever Nights
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Copyright © Mohan Kumar 2012