Beyond being a huge music nerd I’m, out of many things, also a bit of a space nut. Hence I have the past week spent quite some time pondering over the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission which completed the momentous and to this day mindboggling feat of successfully sending a living person to walk on the surface of the Moon. A feat which took place this very week 50 years ago.
Thinking about this huge chapter in the history of humanity as much as I have during the past week have spilled over to the topic of this here piece, clearly, and also in the song selection for today.
Whenever the subject of space and music comes up in thought or conversation my mind almost always at first drift to this cheesy yet charming little piece originally written by composer Bart Howard in 1954 but made famous by Frank Sinatra who sings it like seemingly only he could do. Why’s that?
However more importantly to why this song is so strongly associated with space and in particular with the Apollo 11 mission is remembered to be the first piece of music played on the Moon. The story goes is that Neil and Buzz had a portable cassette player with a recording of “Fly Me to the Moon” with them during their descent to the Moon, which Buzz turned on after he had threaded onto the Moon. Quite a recognition for a piece of music wouldn’t you say?
I think it’s fascinating that even in momentous hours like the Moon landing there is music, and thinking about it more at large how seemingly in humankind’s greatest and darkest hour music usually is there playing a role. This’s a topic that is far larger than the scope of this piece but just to put it shortly for now I truly believe that music is inseparable from the human experience. And that’s pretty wonderful and astonishing to think about.
Before I leave you humming along to the famous opening lines of this song I just wanted to drop some additionally interesting tidbits behind this historical piece of music. Although Sinatra’s 1964 version of the “Fly Me to the Moon”, as arranged by legendary producer Quincy Jones, is by today the easily most remembered version (in reading up for this piece I saw the descriptor “definitive” used by various authors more than on one occasion), likely heavily due to the aforementioned association with the Apollo 11 mission, it’s actually originally written a full decade prior to Sinatra’s recording.
In fact it had been covered and interpreted a significant amount of times before Jones and Sinatra did their version. One of these interpretations even had won a Grammy(!) before the latter duo touched the piece. Yet it’s Sinatra’s version we remember so fondly.
I guess that’s what thrilling “space factor” (insert your favorite space related pun or joke here as you choose, I couldn’t pick one from the abundant list I could conjure) will do to you? I guess I have to concede that amazing musicianship has something to do with it too…
Alas, I digress. Now just…
Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars
Na-na na-na na-na, na, naa…