Moon River

Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics for "Moon River," the song from 1961 that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The song belonged to Breakfast at Tiffany's, the film version of Truman Capote's novella. Mercer and composer Henry Mancini tailored the song for Audrey Hepburn, the actress playing the lead role of Holly Golightly, the Texas girl who fled her roots in poverty to make a new life for herself in New York City. The song about "two drifters off to see the world" has only nine lines, but Mercer's poetic river reverie aches with a longing for a better future.

Moonrise, East River, view of the Manhattan Bridge, evening, March 19
Moon over the East River, above the Manhattan Bridge, as viewed from the Brooklyn Bridge, March 19, 2011.
The moon's beauty was hard to capture, especially on an iPhone.
The reflection of the moon in the river reveals some of the beauty.

Moonrise, East River, view of the Manhattan Bridge, evening, March 19
The moon rising over Brooklyn.

The lyrics of the song reveal a self-conscious awareness that dreams can be broken, but the dreamer also asserts the determination to make it. In this respect, "Moon River" may be seen as part of the tradition of New York songs that comment on the willfulness it takes to become successful in the big city. Kander & Ebb's "New York, New York" and the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys versions of "Empire State of Mind," a response to the first song popularized by Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, are part of this tradition. "Moon River" expresses the wish in a slow and quiet, even southern, way.

Setting of the moon, Hudson River, early morning, March 20
In New York, there's more than one "Moon River." This is the Hudson River, the morning of March 20, 2011, shortly before the moon set, taken from Hudson River Park. That's New Jersey over there.

Setting of the moon, Hudson River, early morning, March 20
A few minutes before the moon set, a cruise ship sailed down the Hudson River and out to the harbor.

As referenced in this November 2008 post on Johnny Mercer, the new medium of television and rock and roll of the 1950s threatened his life as a traditional composer. In 1961, when he was asked to team with Mancini to write a theme song for the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany's, his thoughts turned back toward his childhood days in Savannah and to the river inlets that connect the Low Country to the sea. Mercer became homesick, reliving the hopes and dreams of his southern boyhood. With his invocation of "Moon River," he lends his voice to that of two other southerners, Truman Capote and his girl, Holly Golightly, in creating one of the most enduring and seductive fictions of New York City.

Setting of the moon, Hudson River, early morning, March 20
The moon above the horizon, ready to set over New Jersey. Goodbye, "my huckleberry friend."

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple of the "Supermoon," evening of March 19, 2011 and morning of March 20, 2011.


  1. Now I want to go watch Breakfast at Tiffany's again.

  2. Pascale4:51 AM

    That's exactly why Moon River is my absolute favourite...
    Thanks so much for this Super Moon coverage, I snapped a picture of the moon setting too, it was bright orange here.
    I miss the Hudson River a lot... but I'll be in NYC next month eheh :)

  3. I'll be back in NYC this year Fingers firmly crossed! Got to be the Greatest City in the Western World ! Fabulous Moon shots. The last one is my favourite Jo*

  4. Thanks for the Supermoon shots, Teri, and for sticking that lovely song in my head. Here in Chicago, any time there's a celestial event, we know the sky is going to totally cloud over so we'll miss it.

  5. Fantastic photo of super moon.
    A moon for me symbolizes hope. A hope that there is still a new day that will rise despite the trials in one's life.


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