Growing up with music-loving parents, I often had the misfortune to walk through the family room whenever Andy Williams was opening his variety show with “Moon River.” Maybe it was because my parents liked the show or maybe Andy Williams just seemed like a cornball but I grew to dislike his theme song with a moderate intensity that always drove me quickly out of the room.
Fast forward to the 1990’s. For one of our in-home date nights, I checked out the library’s copy of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” When I saw Audrey Hepburn sitting on the fire escape in her jeans, singing the song that had somehow become simultaneously powerful and fragile during her lovely, inimitable performance, I had a complete change of heart. I was already in love with Audrey. Now I was also in love with her song.
Henry Mancini won an Oscar for “Moon River” along with lyricist Johnny Mercer. And although it has been recorded over 500 times since Audrey first debuted it on the fire escape on the set for “Tiffany’s,” no one, in Mr. Mancini’s opinion, has ever come closer to capturing the essence of the song, as he mentioned in a newspaper interview from the 1970’s:
“It’s unique for a composer to really be inspired by a person, a face, or a personality, but Audrey Hepburn certainly inspires me. She not only inspired me to write “Moon River,” but also “Charade” and “Two for the Road.” If you listen to those songs, you can almost tell who inspired them because they all have Audrey’s quality of wistfulness, a kind of slight sadness. Normally, I have to see a completed film before I’ll compose the music. But in this case, I knew what to write for Audrey just by reading the script. Then, when I met Audrey the first time, I knew the song would be something very, very special. I knew the exact quality of her voice and that she could sing “Moon River” beautifully. To this day, no one has done it with more feeling or understanding.”
Amen. Be sure to check out Audrey’s performance.
Quote source: “Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: A Son Remembers” by Sean Hepburn Ferrar, page 83.