Our first new Frank Ocean music of 2018 arrived today. "Moon River" has a lot of elements we've come to recognize in Frank's recent output—pitched, layered vocals, purposely out-of-step entrances, and a complete lack of percussion.
It's another beautiful addition to his catalogue, and someone else's song. Fans of 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's will recognize "Moon River" from its original appearance, one of Audrey Hepburn's more memorable scenes in what would become a defining role for the young actress:
The song was written by Henry Mancini, who composed the song in a key specifically suited for Hepburn's limited vocal range. Johnny Mercer provided the lyrics, inspired by the full moons over his hometown of Savannah, Georgia. But "Moon River" almost didn't make the movie—the song was all but cut from the final frame when Hepburn herself stepped in.
The words she used are disputed, but The Telegraph reported "the normally gentle Hepburn told him firmly that it would be over her dead body." "Moon River" won Mancini and Mercer an Oscar for Best Original Song the following year. The BBC recently shared their original demo:
From there, the song took off, selling more than one million copies of the sheet music in the first printing. We're not sure what that would equate to in streaming numbers, but it has become one of the most widely-covered American standards in modern history.
Everyone from Andy Williams to Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and now, Frank Ocean have taken a pass at Mancini's luscious chords. The bittersweet melody has a timeless quality that can inspire hope and sadness in equal measure. As proof, here's a young Amy Winehouse singing it with the National Jazz Orchestra to play us out.