Although the famed duo of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote “Blue Moon” in 1934, while commissioned to write music for MGM Studios, the old standard has an unusual history in which the familiar melody was paired with different sets of lyrics — including a version sung by Jean Harlow in the 1933 film, Hollywood Party, another version titled “It’s Just That Kind of Play” was recorded and filmed for the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama before being cut and then revised for a nightclub scene, sung by Shirley Ross. After Manhattan Melodrama was released Jack Robbins, the head of MGM’s publishing company decided that the tune was well suited for commercial release but needed more romantic lyrics and a punchier title. As the story goes, Hart was initially reluctant to write another set of lyrics for the same song but he was persuaded and he eventually wrote one of the more beloved and oft-covered pop standards of the past 100 years; in fact, the song was a hit twice in 1949 with Billy Eckstine and Mel Torme recording versions of the song. And over the years, the song has been covered by an impressive array of beloved artists including Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, The Mavericks, Elkie Brooks, Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton — with the arguably the most famous version being The Marcels’ doo wop version, which hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and the UK Singles chart.
It’s rare that I’ll write about or mention pop standards in any fashion, but bear with me here, there’s a reason. Matilda Mård is a Swedish singer/songwriter, who spent several years writing and performing under her name in Stockholm, Sweden before relocating to the small industrial town of Borlänge as an escape from Stockholm’s busier pace and as a way to rejuvenate and revitalize her approach to music somewhere with far less distractions. And as the story goes, Mård found her creative liberation in a rather unlikely place — a Borlänge karaoke bar. The karaoke bar became a “free zone,” Mård explains in press notes, “far away from my own self doubts and prestige about music.” After several years of piling up songs without releasing them, the Swedish singer/songwriter felt relieved of the pressure she had long felt towards her own original material and began again under the moniker Many Voices Speak. Her debut EP as Many Voices Speak Away For All Time is slated for an October 28, 2016 through Hit City USA Records and the EP’s latest single is a gorgeous and atmospheric rendition of “Blue Moon” in which Mård’s tender and aching vocals glide over a sparse arrangement of shimmering guitar chords and swirling feedback — and as a result, Mård’s rendition adds a bitter and aching sense of regret and nostalgia to the song, while retaining the familiar and beloved melody.