It’s National Moon Day — commemorating that day in 1969 when “the Eagle [had] Landed.” Neil Armstrong took his historic stroll the following day. I seem to remember a quote from Orson Welles (although I can’t find it this morning) to the effect that we shouldn’t have done that (gone to the moon) because it would ruin all the songs. He kind of has a point. For tens of thousands of years, it was an object of mystery to humanity, and thus an inspiration to poets. When you’ve been there, it loses that — it’s just a ball of grey rock in the sky. It’ll probably be a filling station on the way to better places at some point. At bottom, I think this is why some people (like my late hillbilly grandmother) cling to the idea that the whole thing was a ruse, a conspiracy. It’s probably why Fundamentalism exists in general. You must admit that life without faeries and leprechauns and Bigfoot is far more charmless and existentially hostile (and, to use a lunar metaphor from real life), barren.
But I digress. A little listicle of songs from the Tin Pan Alley Era that put the moon front and center. It’s strictly Tin Pan Alley, which to my mind winds down somewhere in the middle of the Great Depression. Thus, we leave off plenty of favorite standards from later years, much as I love them, like “How High the Moon” (1940); “Blue Moon of Kentucky” (1947) and “Fly Me to the Moon” (1954) and scores of others. Too new-fangled! NB: I’ll be enhancing this post as time goes on. I was originally going to profile only ten songs, but then I hit the mother lode and decided to include them all. You may think you know ’em all, but I bet you don’t!
“My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon” (1892)
The vaudeville circuits were just being formed when James Thornton wrote this song for his wife Bonnie Thornton to perform.
“If the Man in the Moon Were a Coon” (1905)
For a little context, Fred Fisher wrote this song to take advantage of the then-current craze for “coon songs” , mashing it together with the evergreen vogue for “moon songs”. Which is not to excuse it, just to point out why something so heinous to our ears would exist in the first place.
“The Moon Has His Eyes On You” (1905)
Albert Von Tilzer (best known for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”) and Billy Johnson collaborated on this early moon song, which sounds a little paranoid if you ask me.
“Laughing Moon” (1908)
A ragtime instrumental by Joseph J. Kaiser.
“Shine On, Harvest Moon” (1908)
One of the most popular songs of the vaudeville era, co-written by the then-married vaudeville team of Jack Norworth and Nora Bayes, and covered by countless others thereafter. It may well have launch the Tin Pan Alley craze for musical moons.
“There’s No Moon Like the Honeymoon” (1908)
“By the Light of the Silvery Moon” (1909)
“The Moon-Mad Moon” (1909)
Clarence J. Harvey and William J. Mullen
“On Moonlight Bay” (1912)
Ditto on all counts, including the Doris Day movie! Co-written by Edward Madden and Percy Wenrich. Madden seems to have had a thing about moons.
“I’ll Sit Right on the Moon and Keep My Eyes on You” (1912)
A hit for songwriter James V. Monaco.
“Under the Summer Moon” (1914)
“Georgia Moon” (1914)
The first of several Southern-state based Moon tunes? By Jean C. Havez and Ted S. Barron.
“Moon Winks” (1915)
A ragtime instrumental by George Stevens.
“Pale Yellow Moon” (1916)
By Fleta Jan Brown and Herbert Spencer.
“Alabama Moon” (1917)
This popular tune by H. Will Callahan also inspired the answer song “Mississippi Moon by Jimmie Rodgers that same year
“When the Moon begins to Shine (Through the Pines of Caroline)” (1918)
By Will Hart and Ed Nelson.
“Jealous Moon” (1918)
By Harry D. Kerr and John S. Zamecnik.
“Wishing Moon” (1919)
By Jack Frost and R. Henri Klickmann
“Georgia Moonlight” (1920)
“Georgia Moon” wasn’t enough apparently. The craze for the moon in Southern states continues with this song by Roy Thornton, Helen Gillespie and Erwin R. Schmidt.
“Virginia Moonlight” (1920)
Harold B. Freeman jumps on the bandwagon.
“Dear Old Dixie Moon” (1920)
Harry D. Kerr and George J. Hayes
“Carolina Moon” (1924)
Joe Burke and Benny Davis.
“Wait’ll Its Moonlight” (1925)
Bannister and Pinkard.
“Get Out and Get Under the Moon”, 1928
“Me and the Man in the Moon” (1928)
James V. Monaco and Edgar Leslie, popularized by Helen Kane.
“Blame it On the Moon” (1929)
Words and music by Phil Baxter.
“Underneath the Harlem Moon”, 1932
By Mack Gordon and Harry Revel.
“It’s Only a Paper Moon”, 1933
“Blue Moon” (1934)
We’re pushing it to include this Rodgers and Hart standard. The style is post-Tin Pan Alley, I think, and it’s actually NEVER gone out of style. Covers of it pop up in every era. But since I’m included a couple of songs that follow it chronologically I feel obligated to include it.
“Moon Over Miami” (1935 )
By Joe Burke and Edgar Leslie, one of many tunes that was later turned into a Hollywood musical
“Me and the Moon” (1936)
Hirsch and Handman
Okay! I am done! Do you hear?! DONE!!! And if you dare suggest any missing songs I will come over to your house and beat you to death with a ukulele! You think I’m kidding? I AM NOT KIDDING!!!
For more on Tin Pan Alley and other vaudeville music, see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available wherever fine books are sold.