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Sep 04

DANNY WILLIAMS – “Moon River”

Popular8 comments • 4,194 views

#131, 30th December 1961

A landmark of sorts – the first song on the list that I own, on 7″ vinyl, the first song that I know as an object. When I was going through a bad patch several years ago I would put it on before going to sleep at night; it was my own lullaby. Listening to it now it still makes me feel that things are going to be, not great necessarily, but alright, especially when the choir slip quietly in – “there’s such a lot of world to see”.

I got very excited when I heard Morrissey had done a version of it – one of my favourite singers, a song I loved, what could go wrong? Quite a lot. After hearing it I formulated a ‘test’ for singers tackling the tune – if they let the word “huckleberry” beat them, they weren’t up to it. Some people – Morrissey among them – try and replace it, or ignore it, or mumble it. Others just get it over with, making a kind of pledge to the listener that they won’t worry what it means if you won’t. Danny Williams, though, caresses it. He knows that it’s the key to the thing – one perfect word that, even if you don’t know what it means, can sum up everything in the song, all the friendship, the hope, the gentleness, comfort and love, if you only sing it right. So he does.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Anonymous on 24 Mar 2006 #

    I have always found this version of this song so mesmorising. I have after years, only just decided to try and sort out my confusions as to who sang sang it first and when, as i found it very hard to believe that so many people refer to the Andy Williams version……..ARE THEY IN A COMA!!

  2. 2
    Lena on 26 May 2008 #

    I have yet to hear a bad version of this – and yes, Danny does get it just right…

  3. 3
    DJ Punctum on 27 May 2008 #

    For some bizarre reason the Andy Williams original was never released as a single in Britain or the States, so the time was ripe for someone else to have a hit with it, and SA emigre Danny was the ideal singer, I think; as I said on Haloscan, this makes me think of the hopeful Commonwealth immigrant, sailing out for a new land and a new life and (maybe mercifully) not knowing what was in store for him.

    For me this is one of the songs of the 20th century and the “my Huckleberry friend” is the cherry of punctum atop its lovely cake; pure poetry, as one would expect from Johnny Mercer, a lyricist fit to stand beside WS Gilbert and Noel Coward.

  4. 4
    rosie on 14 Jun 2008 #

    Andy Williams original? My arse! It was written for Audrey Hepburn and nobody could ever come close to her breathy, sexy, non-singing version.

    But as a song it’s pretty robust and near impossible to ruin. And Danny Williams’s ranks particularly high for me as his (and not Audrey’s) version is the first I knew.

    I like to sing it myself, in private…

  5. 5
    SteveIson on 21 Jul 2008 #

    I agree.. Heard THe Audrey version first-and the beautifully non showey,human quality she brings suits the songs generous inward mood so perfectly and can never be beaten imo

  6. 6
    Matthew on 12 Jan 2009 #

    I probably deserve to get punched for this, but I can’t help but think of this as a serial killer song – this may be the fault of Morrissey, conflating the protagonists with Brady and Hindley, per his weird obsessions somehow. But “waitin ’round the bend” will always be an admission of mental instability, in my brain.

    Hmm, “I’m not so sure the world deserves us” isn’t in the original lyrics, is it? So basically Morrissey twisted and poisoned this pretty, innocent song for me forever. Bad Morrissey.

  7. 7
    mapman132 on 2 Feb 2014 #

    Regardless of which version one prefers, it seems like such an iconic song should’ve been a US #1 for somebody. But no, at least according to Wikipedia, the highest it got on the Hot 100 was #11 for Jerry Butler. I have to believe Andy’s version would’ve hit #1 if it had been released as a single. Instead, one of the earliest victims of the “singles only” rule and/or record company strategy.

  8. 8
    lonepilgrim on 19 Jun 2014 #

    an exquisite way to end 1961 – this is a gorgeous version of a pretty much perfect song. Much of the best (for me) in American culture is suggestive of a vast landscape with a better world ‘just around the bend’ and this sense of yearning, made more bearable by the companionship of a ‘huckleberry friend’ is an essential part of this song.
    Danny Williams bends the notes a little (perhaps drawing upon a blues and gospel tradition), avoiding the pristine quality of Andy Williams’ version, and hinting at a sense of loss.

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