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Jazz Play Along – Blue Moon

Jazz Play Along Blue Moon with sheet music download

Play Jazz Standards!

Blue Moon, by Rodgers & Hart

The background audio (MP3) and the sheet music are included in the Vol. 34 of the Jamey Aebersold collection.

Jazz Play Along   sheet music
Jazz Play Along   sheet music

Blue Moon

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Blue Moon” is a classic popular song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. It may be the first instance of the familiar “50s progression” in a popular song and has become a standard ballad. The song was a hit twice in 1949 with successful recordings in the U.S. by Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé.

In 1961, “Blue Moon” became an international number-one hit for the doo-wop group The Marcels, on the Billboard 100 chart and in the UK Singles chart. Over the years, “Blue Moon” has been covered by various artists, including versions by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, The Platters, The Mavericks, Dean Martin, Yvonne De Carlo, The Supremes, Cyndi Lauper, Bob Dylan, Beck, and Rod Stewart. Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album On the Happy Side (1962). The Cowboy Junkies recorded the song on their album The Trinity Sessions.

Rodgers and Hart were contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in May 1933. They were soon commissioned to write the songs for Hollywood Party, a film that was to star many of the studio’s top artists. Rodgers recalled, “One of our ideas was to include a scene in which Jean Harlow is shown as an innocent young girl saying—or rather singing—her prayers. How the sequence fitted into the movie I haven’t the foggiest notion, but the purpose was to express Harlow’s overwhelming ambition to become a movie star (‘Oh Lord, if you’re not busy up there,/I ask for help with a prayer/So please don’t give me the air …’).” The song was not recorded (the movie was released without Harlow in 1934) and MGM Song No. 225 “Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)” dated June 14, 1933, was registered for copyright as an unpublished work on July 10, 1933.

Hart wrote new lyrics for the tune to create a title song for the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama: “Act One:/You gulp your coffee and run;/Into the subway you crowd./Don’t breathe, it isn’t allowed”. The song, which was also titled “It’s Just That Kind of Play”, was cut from the film before release, and registered for copyright as an unpublished work on March 30, 1934. The studio then asked for a nightclub number for the film. Rodgers still liked the melody so Hart wrote a third lyric: “The Bad in Every Man” (“Oh, Lord … /I could be good to a lover,/But then I always discover/The bad in ev’ry man”), which was sung by Shirley Ross.

After the film was released by MGM, Jack Robbins—the head of the studio’s publishing company—decided that the tune was suited to commercial release but needed more romantic lyrics and a punchier title. Hart was initially reluctant to write yet another lyric but he was persuaded. Robbins licensed the song to Hollywood Hotel, a radio program that used it as the theme. The cover of Robbins’ 1934 sheet music edition credits Ted Fio Rito (vocal by Muzzy Marcellino) as introducing the song, recorded on Brunswick 7315, October 19, 1934. The song charted in the Top Ten for 18 weeks in Variety, reaching number 1 on January 26, 1935. The song was also recorded by Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra for Decca Records in November 1934 and Connee Boswell for Brunswick Records in 1935. It subsequently was featured in at least seven MGM films, including the Marx Brothers’ At the Circus (1939) and Viva Las Vegas (1964). There are two introductory verses in the original Robbins sheet music edition. Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart sang the first verse in their 2004 version of the song (Stardust: The Great American Songbook, Volume III). The last line of the first verse is: “Life was a bitter cup for the saddest of all men.”

On September 16, 2018, an article in The New York Times disclosed that Liz Roman Gallese, a documentary filmmaker, has provided evidence on her website of a 1936 lawsuit contending “Blue Moon” was written by her late father, Edward W. Roman. The family story was “that her father had sold the song for $900 to buy a car, or maybe that he had ‘settled’ with the rich and famous Rodgers and Hart for that amount.” Ted Chapin, the chief creative officer of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, said that he had not heard of Gallese’s story and that it seemed “a little far-fetched. ”