Feb 232018
frank ocean moon river

The 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s has a complicated legacy rivaling that of Gone with the Wind. The images of Audrey Hepburn standing in front of the famed Manhattan jewelry store are some of the most memorable of the 20th century. Yet, Mickey Rooney’s yellowface portrayal of the Japanese landlord I. Y. Yunioshi renders the film almost unwatchable today.

The movie’s Oscar-winning theme song “Moon River,” with music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, has long transcended the era in which it was written. The song’s instantly recognizable melody has made it a standard through the ages, with versions by a wide range of artists from Frank Sinatra to The Killers. On Mancini’s Spotify page, Hepburn’s original from the movie and the main-title instrumental rendition are his top two tracks, beating out the equally iconic “Pink Panther Theme.” Frank Ocean recently added to “Moon River’s” exhaustive legacy by releasing a cover.

Ocean has made a name for himself as a musical trailblazer with his hypnotic blend of R&B and hip hop. Ocean sings most of the song in a raspy, almost bluesy voice. The accompaniment itself is rather sparse: one note simply repeating itself again and again, almost like a heartbeat. Ocean, singing lead and backup, uses his voice to carry the melody. He inverts the lyrics, shifting emphasis away from the words “moon river” and placing them squarely on the words “two drifters,” singing them with a heavy dose of sadness in his voice. The song fades out with soft electronic effects, sounding like it would be at home on Ocean’s other albums. With an artist of Ocean’s caliber taking on the tune, it’s clear that Mancini and Mercer’s iconic song from the early ‘60s is in no danger of fading away.

Click here to listen to our five favorite covers of “Moon River.”

May 132016

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Moon River Audrey Hepburn

“Moon River” has been recorded over five hundred times. Clearly, there’s something universal about the song. It has touched a great number of people, and artists across a diverse range of genres have given it a shot. What is it about this song that causes such a reaction?
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Aug 092011

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

For most of their existence, Athens, GA quartet (later trio) R.E.M. has been synonymous with college rock. As early pioneers of the alternative movement that bucked popular trends like hair metal and new wave, R.E.M. gained significant notoriety among their core fan base with strong ’80s efforts like Murmur and Life’s Rich Pageant before finding mainstream success with hits such as 1987’s “The One I Love” and 1991’s monster single “Losing My Religion.” They continue to record to this day, and still have legions of devoted fans. In fact, they released their 15th studio album, Collapse Into Now, only a few months ago, taking them into the 31st consecutive year of their career. Continue reading »

Jan 112011

Limelight just announced the most-recorded cover songs of 2010. And the winner is…well, don’t hold your breath.

We’ll preface this by noting the word recorded. Our friends at Limelight help artists gain permission from and pay royalties to copyright holders. If you want to make money off a cover of “I Gotta Feeling,” you’d better talk to them. This means, though, that this list may not match up with a “Most-Covered Songs of 2010” list (which would be impossible to compile anyway). Because while YouTube stars and MySpace wannabes swarmed popular songs like “Bad Romance” and “Teenage Dream,” most of these were live takes or Internet freebies. Such off-the-cuff releases don’t count here, which buffers the list against the trendy buzz covers we hold so dear. Continue reading »