"Moonglow" is a 32-bar tune in the form of AABA.
"Moonglow" appears in jazz fake books and lead sheets in the key of G, though it is also thought to originally be in the key of C. It is tonal and begins on the IV chord, also referred to as the subdominant major chord, and the sixth, or submediant note of the major scale, before resolving onto the tonic.
The melodic riff of the A section is composed of a repeated minor third interval followed by a major third interval and then a repeated note. Harmonic movement is largely in an ascending circle of fourths, or with descending chromatic substitutions, but there is also movement between thirds or between major and minor seventh chords. Minor seventh chords are often played in first inversion in this tune, and may therefore be thought of and notated as six chords of the relative major.
Rhythmically "Moonglow" is in 4
4 time. It is a foxtrot, typically played at a slow tempo, although some performers, notably Art Tatum, have played it faster. The rhythm is syncopated. Jazz players usually swing the eighth notes.
Writer George T. Simon, while working on a compilation of music for The Big Band Songbook, contacted composer Will Hudson regarding “Moonglow,” and Hudson explained how the tune came about. "It happened very simply. Back in the early '30s, I had a band at the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit, and I needed a theme song. So I wrote 'Moonglow'."
"Moonglow" was first recorded by Joe Venuti and his orchestra in 1933, with subsequent recordings by Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman and his orchestra, Ethel Waters, and Art Tatum in 1934 and has since become a jazz standard, performed and recorded numerous times by a wide array of musical talents. The Benny Goodman Quartet with Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton made a famous version of the song in 1936, Artie Shaw recorded it in 1941, and Harry James recorded it in 1946 (released in 1950) on Columbia 38943.
Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1956 for use on his radio show and it was subsequently included in the box set The Bing Crosby CBS Radio Recordings (1954-56) issued by Mosaic Records (catalog MD7-245) in 2009. Other prominent vocalists who have recorded "Moonglow" include June Christy (1946), Billie Holiday (1952) and Sarah Vaughan (1962). A recording by George Cates and his Orchestra reached number four. The Coasters released a version on their 1960 album, One by One.
- Jazz sessionography
As of July 2016, in jazz alone, "Moonglow" is credited for having been recorded 572 times — which includes studio sessions, unreleased masters, live performances, and radio transcriptions ... according to The Jazz Discography, a print and digital resource for jazz recordings. The 572 count does not include re-releases, which often far outnumber the sessions.
In the 1950s a medley of the song and George Duning's "Theme from Picnic" orchestrated by Johnny Warrington (1911–1978), became quite popular, especially in instrumental recordings by Morris Stoloff, conductor of the film version by the Columbia Pictures Orchestra. Duning wrote the film's theme to counterpoint "Moonglow". Stoloff's recording spent three weeks at number one on the U.S. Billboard "Hot 100", and became a gold record. It is also featured in Martin Scorsese's film The Aviator (2004), when Leonardo DiCaprio (as Howard Hughes) and Cate Blanchett (as Katharine Hepburn) fly over Los Angeles at night in one of Hughes' private planes.
- "Moonglow (1934)," Jazz Standards Introduction: Origins, History, Theory, Musicology, Biographies, and Books, Portland, Oregon: www
.jazzstandards .com, LLC, Jeremy Wilson (ed.) (retrieved April 29, 2016)
- "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- "allmusic.com". allmusic.com. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
- Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-2002, by Joel Whitburn, Record Research (2011); OCLC 745433409
- "The Coasters, One by One," by J. Poet, AllMusic (retrieved February 14, 2012)