Brad Paisley calls his latest album Moonshine in the Trunk, thereby continuing country music’s long-running fascination with all things moonlit (including the nocturnal manufacture of a potent form of liquid illumination).
Inspired by his album title, we sifted through history and found these 15 moon-related memorables:
“There’s a New Moon Over My Shoulder,” Tex Ritter (1944)
His gal promised him she’d return with the next new moon. But several have come and gone as she’s stayed gone, leading him to lament, “There’s a new moon over my shoulder/And an old love still in my heart.”
“Blue Moon of Kentucky,” Bill Monroe (1946)
His moon is blue — no surprise here — because his lover has said goodbye. But there have been a few compensations since. The song became Monroe’s signature hit, helped launch Elvis Presley‘s career and has been recorded by just about everyone with access to a microphone, including Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Levon Helm and an impromptu rendition by former Beatles Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Not bad, as heartbreaks go.
“Howlin’ at the Moon,” Hank Williams (1951)
Williams has caught a real bad case of lovesickness, a condition so intense that it has him “chasin’ rabbits, scratchin’ fleas and howlin’ at the moon.”
“Mr. Moon,” Carl Smith (1951)
Smith seems to have a pretty chummy relationship with the celestial spotlight, first asking it to help him win his love and then to brighten their honeymoon should it ensue. “It seems your golden beauty just makes a perfect night/Somehow it seems my cutie looks cuter by your light.” Awww!
“Blame It on the Moonlight,” Johnny Wright (1965)
Moonlight makes you do strange things. At least that’s the excuse Wright’s girlfriend gives him when he spies her kissing another guy one night. Well, it can work both ways as he sputters, “Go on and blame it on the moonlight, blame it on the moonlight/Or blame it on some crazy star up in the blue/But if I ever grieve you, hurt you or deceive you/Don’t blame me if I blame it on the moonlight, too.”
“Blue Moon With Heartache,” Rosanne Cash (1981)
Could it get any worse? Not only is the moon blue, her beloved comes back home not treating her right. Everything’s falling apart. This description leads up to one of the most poignant and despairing lyrics in all of music: “What would I do to be a diamond in your eyes again/What would I give to bring back those old times/What did I say to make your past turn out this way/Maybe I’ll just go away today.”
“Shame on the Moon,” Bob Seger (1983)
Although a rock singer, Seger actually made the country charts with this Rodney Crowell composition, taking it all the way to No. 15. The song describes the delicate interplay and unshared secrets between lovers. And, as we’ve been told repeatedly, the moon has a lot to do with these tricky affairs. “Oh, blame it on midnight,” Seeger sings, “Ooh, shame on the moon.”
“I Don’t Know a Thing About Love (The Moon Song),” Conway Twitty (1984)
Twitty seeks relationship advice from the man in the moon, only to be told, “I don’t know a thing about love/I just kind of hang here above/I just watch from the sky/Will love grow or will it die/I don’t know a thing about love.” Sounds like Mr. Moon is trying to avoid a malpractice suit.
“Cajun Moon,” Ricky Skaggs (1986)
Skaggs needs that little extra boost only the moon can give to get his love affair in motion. So amid all the music and bonfires, he cries out, “Cajun moon, nugget of gold/River of light on the bayou/You’re just like rain to a love in bloom, so/Shine on me, oh, Cajun moon.” It seems to be working.
“Talkin’ to the Moon,” the Gatlin Brothers (1986)
The Gatlins are getting absolutely nowhere in convincing their lovers to return. As lead singer Larry Gatlin, puts it, “I keep on hopin’/For all the good it does me/Lord, I might as well be talkin’ to the moon.” Well, Twitty could have told him that.
“The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder,” Michael Johnson (1987)
The man Johnson sings about is still dazzled at how young his wife seems and how much he still loves her even after the kids have grown up and married. In his mind, she’s still the same lovely creature as the one whose picture he carries in his wallet. “And the moon is still over her shoulder/And the stars are still falling above/And she never gets one minute older/And he is still falling in love.” No doubt this song has brightened many a wedding.
“Paint the Town and Hang the Moon Tonight,” J.C. Crowley (1988)
Crowley came to country music after having had a modicum of success as a member of Player, the group that scored the 1977 pop hit, “Baby Come Back.” Here he’s full-throttle honky-tonk: “I broke the saddle off my horse/It’s Friday night, and I’ve done my chores/Shined my boots, I’m ready to dance/Them little ladies ain’t got no chance/I’m gonna paint the town and hang the moon tonight.” Guess somebody has to do it.
Brooks & Dunn (1992)
Ronnie Dunn is about as low as you can go in this tearfest. His lover has gone. He’s sitting alone at a table for two in a seedy bar. And the only “moonlight” coming his way is powered by neon. “If you lose your one and only/There’s always room here for the lonely/To watch your broken dreams/Dance in and out of the beams/Of a neon moon.” And you think you’ve got troubles.
“Even the Man in the Moon Is Crying,” Mark Collie (1992)
Remember those Shakespearean plays where all the elements of nature go crazy right before something bad happens — like the assassination in Julius Caesar? That’s basically what we have here, except the tragedy has already occurred. Collie has just taken his girlfriend to the airport and senses things have fallen apart. “Now I hear voices in the wind/Sayin’ she ain’t comin’ back again/I look for guidance in the sky/But the stars have all gone out tonight/I feel like the love of my life is dyin’/Even the man in the moon is cryin’.”
“Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine on You,”
Toby Keith (1996)
At first, Keith was glad to see the love affair break up. Not so now. He misses her terribly and wonders if she ever feels the same. Looking up at that cold orb of light, he muses mournfully, “Does that blue moon ever shine on you?” We’re rooting for you, Toby. We love happy endings.