Earth’s nearest neighbor in space, our Moon, takes center stage in the skies this week as it reaches First Quarter phase and turns all heads upward for at least a quick glance.
Amateur astronomers like me will be putting our telescope and binoculars on La Luna as it is an irresistible target with all the beautiful formations highlighted along the lunar morning of the terminator.
I might even have a few songs about the Moon playing on my stereo this week, or in headphones as I peruse the alien landscape of the Alpine Valley, the Straight Wall and the cluster of beautiful craters Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina.
The mesmerizing sight of the Moon in our night sky has been the inspiration for artists of all kinds since antiquity. And among the world’s great songs, the ones about the Moon have been a successful, constant theme.
The sight of the Moon no doubt inspired primitive musicians that include ancient chants of Druids and music from civilization of antiquity like the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. If we could only have lyrics and music sheets of those lunar melodies!
Our Mountain Empire is well-known as a hotbed of music; after all, Bristol is the birthplace of country music—deemed so by the first recordings in 1927 by Ralph Peer on the historic State Street dividing Tennessee and Virginia.
During my three decades of living in the Tri-Cities of Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City, I’ve professionally photographed dozens of musicians and been a groupie to several of our top talents.
So I wonder what kind of Top 10 Moon Song set list I could come up with for the likes of Bluegrass Hall of Famer Doyle Lawson, or favorite balladeers like H.B. Beverly and Annie Robinette. And I’ve got plenty of Moon song ideas for favorite rockers Lightning Charlie, David Williams and the Benny Wilson Band. Maybe even a few ivory ticklers for piano man Anthony Mangrum!
Allow me to indulge my Moon music fantasy and review some of the classics from a musical lunar voyage.
In fact, there are hundreds of songs with the Moon in its theme—and I’ve catalogued most of them on my personal Spotify list of astronomy-themed songs.
Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” Cat Steven’s popular “Moon Shadow” and Van Morrison’s “Moon Dance” are just a few great songs inspired by La Luna.
There are some great songs for all kinds of music lovers. Fans of the Grateful Dead all know the 1990s “Picasso Moon” and “Standing on the Moon.” And how about the Dead’s 1969 classic, “Mountains of the Moon?”
Rock and roll icons have lots of lunar influence. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” Ozzy Osborne’s “Bark at the Moon,” Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever,” “Moonlight Mile” by the Rolling Stones, “Moonlight Drive” by the Doors and “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie are some of the classics.
The early Beatles sang “Mr. Moonlight,” and Paul McCartney was plain loony recording “C Moon” and “Monkberry Moon Delight” in his early solo years. George Harrison was more serious with “Here Comes the Moon,” the “Here Comes the Sun” follow-up that sort of flopped.
We’ve got the classic crooners – Frank Sinatra and “Fly Me To The Moon,” and Elvis with “Blue Moon.” Even country music superstars Brooks and Dunn have “Neon Moon.” Don’t forget Neil Young and the “Harvest Moon” album and its beautiful song title.
Who hasn’t heard the classic “By the Light of the Silvery Moon?” But who knows it was written by Gus Edwards (music) and Edward Madden (lyrics) in 1909? Those Tin Pan Alley days had lots of Moon inspired songs.
There is Alan Parsons Project and “Children of the Moon,” or how about the Police with Sting singing “Walking on the Moon.”
And then there is the ultimate rock concept album that sent me and many a Baby Boomer on a real lunar trip—Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon!”
Symphony classics are full of Moon sonatas and overtures. Beethoven had “Moonlight Sonata,” and Debussy had “Au Clair de Lune” translated “By the Light of the Moon.”
How about the music of television with “Theme from Moonlighting” by Al Jarreau? And then there are the movies with “Theme from Moonraker” from the James Bond flick of the same name.
There’s lots more Moon songs, old and new: “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” Arlen, Harburg & Rose, 1934; “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” Los Lobos, 1992; “Yellow Moon” Nevelle Brothers, 1989; “Moon at My Window” Joni Mitchell, 1982; “The Moon is Down” Gentle Giant 1971; “Blue Moon of Kentucky” Bill Monroe, 1947; and “Shine on Harvest Moon” Nora Bates and Jack Norworth, 1903.
Like all Top 10s, there are lots of surprises, and lots of great songs. What are your favorite Moon tunes?
And now the big reveal…MarQ’s Top 10 favorite songs inspired by La Luna…they are:
10. “Moon River” Henry Mancini
9. “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” Bill Monroe
8. “Man on the Moon” R.E.M.
7. “Picasso Moon” Grateful Dead
6. “Shine on Harvest Moon” Bates and Norworth
5. “Moonage Daydream” David Bowie
4. “Bad Moon Rising” Creedence Clearwater Revival
3. “Dark Side of the Moon” Pink Floyd’s album
2. “Moondance” Van Morrison
1. “Moonshadow” Cat Stevens
I hope you’ve been inspired my sense of lunacy. Spin some moon vinyl, download some moon iTunes or load up a thumb drive full of your favorites. I can’t wait to hear some Moon songs on the set lists of my favorite Tri-Cities musicians!