It's Only a Paper Moon

Nat King Cole

About It's Only a Paper Moon

"It's Only a Paper Moon" is a popular song published in 1933 with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg and Billy Rose. It was originally titled "If You Believed in Me," but later went by the more popular title "It's Only a Paper Moon." The song was written for an unsuccessful 1932 Broadway play called The Great Magoo that was set in Coney Island. Claire Carleton first performed this song on December 2, 1932. It was used in the movie Take a Chance in 1933 when it was sung by June Knight and Charles "Buddy" Rogers. Paul Whiteman recorded a hit version later that year, featuring Bunny Berigan on trumpet and Peggy Healy on vocals. Another popular 1933 recording was done by Cliff Edwards. The song's lasting fame stems from its revival by popular artists during the last years of World War II, with hit recordings being made by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Benny Goodman (vocal by Dottie Reid). It is now regarded as a jazz and pop standard, and has been recorded by numerous artists over the years. 


Year:
1997
2,133 
#6

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It is only a paper moon
Hanging over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believe in me

It is only a canvas sky
Sailing over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make believe 
If you believe in me

Without your love
It's a honky tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played 
On a penny arcade

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believe in me

Without your love
It's a honky tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played
On a penny arcade

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believe in me

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Nat King Cole

Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was a musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. He owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres. He was one of the first black Americans to host a television variety show, and has maintained worldwide popularity since his death. more »

23 fans

Written by: Billy Rose, E. Y. Harburg, Harold Arlen

Lyrics © S.A. MUSIC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind


8 facts about this song

Historical Fact
"It's Only a Paper Moon" was composed by Harold Arlen in 1933 for the Broadway play called "The Great Magoo". The lyrics for the song were written by Billy Rose and E. Y. Harburg.
Performance Fact
Benny Goodman, also known as the "King of Swing", did a version of "It's Only a Paper Moon". Goodman was a talented jazz and swing musician, widely known for his clarinet performance.
Interpretation Fact
Cliff Edwards, known as "Ukulele Ike", was one of the early singers to record "It's Only a Paper Moon". His interpretation is unique because Edwards is renowned for his ukulele performance and his unique singing style.
Artist Fact
Over time, "It's Only a Paper Moon" has been covered by many artists but most notably, Ella Fitzgerald performed it. Ella, known as the "First Lady of Song", is one of the leading figures in the history of jazz, and her version of the song is highly acclaimed.
Cultural Fact
The song became highly popular during World War II, much due to the version by Nat King Cole. Cole was an influential figure in jazz and pop music in the 20th century and his rendition of the song became a big hit.
Musical Fact
Paul Whiteman's Orchestra also recorded "It's Only a Paper Moon". Whiteman was a leading figure in the introduction of jazz to mainstream audiences, and his version of the song represents a bridge between the traditional orchestra and modern jazz standards.
Song Facts
The song's lyrics refer to a paper moon and cardboard sea, metaphors for illusion and frailty of dreams. The song speaks in the first person about the power of love to transform the world, suggesting that life without love is an illusory or flimsy as a paper moon or cardboard sea.
Legacy Fact
Despite written for a now mostly forgotten play, "It's Only a Paper Moon" has achieved a legacy far beyond the stage. Its memorable melody and timeless lyrics have made it a standard in the American Songbook, covered by a diverse array of artists across different genres and generations.

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