Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shine On, Harvest Moon

Tonight (or more like the wee hours of the morning), there will be a full moon. But it's not just any full moon; the one that appears in September is generally known in our part of the world as the “Harvest Moon.” AND, it's not just any Harvest Moon, but the most vivid to be witnessed in about twenty years. The science section of the NASA website tells you all you could ever want to know about it. We're going to tell you a little bit of it, plus a little more.

The following is excerpted from The Old Farmer's Almanac. Or maybe it was somewhere on YouTube. Whatever.

Traditionally, this designation goes to the full moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal (fall) Equinox. The Harvest Moon usually comes in September ... At the peak of the harvest, farmers can work into the night by the light of this moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice — the chief Indian staples — are now ready for gathering.

This full moon has figured prominently in American culture.

In 1908, Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth penned the words and music to “Shine On, Harvest Moon” for the Ziegfeld Follies of the same year. It was first recorded by Ruth Etting in 1931. That recording is above in the first video clip. It has also been sung by many other artists of the early 20th century, including Laurel and Hardy, and Roy Rogers. The chorus is pretty straightforward on the significance of this celestial event.

“Oh, shine on, shine on,
harvest moon up in the sky,
I ain’t had no lovin’
since April, January, June, or July.
Snow time ain’t no time
to stay outdoors and spoon,
So shine on, shine on, harvest moon,
For me and my gal.”

I first heard the tune while in college, from the Canadian singer and guitarist named Leon Redbone (whose birth name, after years of mystery about it, was Dickran Gobalian, born in Cyprus in August of 1949). In this second video clip, from last year's annual Kitchener Blues Festival, the legendary neo-vaudville crooner treats the audience to a gravelly rendition of our featured song, accompanied by Paul Asaro at the piano.

Thanks to Ruth Etting, he is spared the burden of enunciating.

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