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’’Moonlight Serenade" arranged here for Cello Quintet, is an American popular song composed by Glenn Miller with subsequent lyrics by Mitchell Parish. It was an immediate phenomenon when first released in May 1939 as an instrumental arrangement and was adopted as Miller’s signature tune. In 1991, Miller’s recording of "Moonlight Serenade" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The song, recorded on April 4, 1939 on RCA Bluebird, was a Top Ten hit on the U.S. pop charts in 1939, reaching number three on the Billboard charts, where it stayed for fifteen weeks. It was the number 5 top pop hit of 1939 in the Billboard year-end tally. Glenn Miller had five records in the top 20 songs of 1939 on Billboard′s list.
In the UK, "Moonlight Serenade" was released as the A-side of a 78 on His Master’s Voice, with "American Patrol" as the B-side. The recording reached number twelve in the UK in March 1954, staying on the chart for one week. In a medley with "Little Brown Jug" and "In the Mood", "Moonlight Serenade" reached number thirteen on the UK charts in January 1976, in a chart run of eight weeks.
The recording was also issued as a V-Disc, No. 39A, in November 1943.
The recording used a clarinet-led saxophone section, which is widely considered the classic Glenn Miller style. Miller studied the Schillinger technique with Joseph Schillinger, who is credited with helping Miller create the "Miller sound", and under whose tutelage he himself composed "Moonlight Serenade".
The song evolved from a 1935 version entitled "Now I Lay Me Down to Weep", with music by Glenn Miller and lyrics by Eddie Heyman to a version called "Gone with the Dawn" with lyrics by George Simon, and "The Wind in the Trees" with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. In his biography of Glenn Miller, George T. Simon recounted how vocalist Al Bowlly of the Ray Noble Orchestra sang him the Eddie Heyman lyrics to the Glenn Miller music of "Now I Lay Me Down to Weep" in 1935. The Noble Orchestra never recorded the song. Finally it ended up as "Moonlight Serenade" because Robbins Music bought the music and learned that Miller was recording a cover of "Sunrise Serenade", a Frankie Carle associated song, for RCA Victor. They thought "Moonlight" would be a natural association for "Sunrise".
"Now I Lay Me Down to Weep" was composed in 1935 with lyrics by Eddie Heyman and music by Glenn Miller. After "Moonlight Serenade", originally released solely as an instrumental, became a smash hit in 1939, Mitchell Parish wrote new lyrics for the music under that title.
A notable vocal version can be found on Frank Sinatra’s Moonlight Sinatra released in 1965, which also contains "Moon Love", "Moonlight Becomes You", and "Oh, You Crazy Moon", which were recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. "Moonlight Serenade" can also be found on Nothing But the Best, a 2008 Frank Sinatra greatest hits compilation by Reprise, on My Way: The Best of Frank Sinatra from 1997 by Warner Bros., and the Frank Sinatra compilation Greatest Love Songs from 2002. Frank Sinatra also released the song as part of an 7" EP 33RPM single in 1966, Reprise SR1018. The song also appeared on the 2015 centennial collection Ultimate Sinatra. In 1939, Count Basie and His Orchestra recorded one of the earliest versions to feature the lyrics added by Mitchell Parish which was released as a 78 single, Vocalion 5036.
"Moonlight Serenade" has been covered by Barry Manilow, Carly Simon, The Airmen of Note of the U.S. Air Force with Air Force Strings, Charlie Haden, Marc Reift, Chet Baker with The Mariachi Brass in 1966, Santo and Johnny, Thelma Houston, Carol Burnett, Toots Thielemans, Deodato, who reached number 18 on the Billboard Easy Listening Chart, Count Basie and his Orchestra with vocals by Helen Humes in 1939, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, Cab Calloway, The Modernaires, Gene Krupa and his Orchestra, Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, Bert Kaempfert, Ray Conniff, Mina, Dick Todd on RCA Bluebird, Geoff Love and His Orchestra, Lloyd Gregory on solo guitar, Dick Hyman, Maxwell Davis and his Orchestra, Tony Evans, Los Indios Tabajaras, David Rose, Richard Himber, Fi Dells Quartet, Waikikis, The Universal-International Orchestra conducted by Joseph Gershenson, Oleg Lundstrom, Charlie Byrd, Taco, Alix Combelle, Richard Vaughn, Lisa Ono, Eddie Maynard, Simone Kopmajer, Hamburg Philharmonia, Frankie Capp, Dave, Robert Banks Trio, Karel Vlach, Transatlantic Swing Band, the Frankie Condon Orchestra, The Romantic Strings, Paul Mauriat, Tommy Leonetti, Johnny Desmond, the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler, John Williams, and Keith Lockhart, Charlie Calello Orchestra, J.P. Torres and the Cuban All Stars, Tex Beneke and His Orchestra, the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra, Urbie Green, Bob Mintzer, Laura Fygi, Max Greger, Mario Pezzotta and His Orchestra, 101 Strings, Andrés Ramiro and His Orchestra, The Hiltonaires, Big Warsaw Band, Pep Poblet, Ray Anthony, Cheryl Bentyne, jazz trumpeter Bobby Hackett in 1965, The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic, Joe Loss, Ted Heath, Lawrence Welk, Henry Mancini, James Last, Michael Maxwell and His Orchestra, John Blair, Ray Eberle, Enoch Light, Modern Folk Quartet, Buddy Emmons on steel guitar, The Rivieras, a 1950s Doo Wop group whose recording reached number 47 on the pop charts in 1959, Tuxedo Junction, Yasuko Agawa, George Melachrino, German bandleader Kurt Edelhagen, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Rabin, Henry Jerome and his Orchestra as a 45 single, Decca 25545, Kurt Elling, Syd Lawrence, The Ventures, Archie Bleyer, Mantovani, Bobby Vinton, who reached number 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976, and the rock band Chicago as a 1995 3 inch CD single in Japan and on the big band album Night & Day Big Band.
Jazz critic Gary Giddins wrote about the song’s impact and legacy; "Miller exuded little warmth on or off the bandstand, but once the band struck up its theme, audiences were done for: throats clutched, eyes softened. Can any other record match ’Moonlight Serenade’ for its ability to induce a Pavlovian slobber in so many for so long?" (The New Yorker, May 24, 2004).
"Moonlight Serenade" released as V-Disc 39A, VP 75, Theme Song, by the U.S. War Department in November 1943. In November 1939, Miller had a 15-minute radio series on CBS called Moonlight Serenade that ran three times a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 10:00 PM Eastern Time (shifting to 7:15 PM in May 1942), until September 1942, sponsored by Chesterfield.
The 1939 RCA Victor studio recording of "Moonlight Serenade" was released by the U.S. War Department as V-Disc 39A, VP 75, Theme Song, in November, 1943. The recording was also released on the Navy V-Disc No. 160A. A V-Disc test pressing of a recording of the song from November 17, 1945 by the AAF Band was made but the disc was not issued. A new recording by Glenn Miller with the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces was broadcast to Germany in 1944 on the radio program The Wehrmacht Hour.
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