Writing the song and its earliest public performance
In 1954, when writing the song which would become famous as "Fly Me to the Moon", Bart Howard had been pursuing a career in music for more than 20 years. He played piano to accompany cabaret singers but also wrote songs with Cole Porter being his idol. In response to a publisher's request for a simpler song, Bart Howard wrote a cabaret balled in waltz time which he titled "In Other Words". A publisher tried to make him change some lyrics from "fly me to the moon" to "take me to the moon" but Howard refused to do this. Many years later Howard commented that “... it took me 20 years to find out how to write a song in 20 minutes".
He used his position as a piano accompanist and presenter at the Blue Angel cabaret venue to promote the song and it was soon introduced in cabaret performances by Felicia Sanders.
Early recordings of "In Other Words"
Kaye Ballard made the first commercial recording of "In Other Words" in April 1954. A brief review published on 8 May 1954 in Billboard said that "In Other Words" was "A love song sung with feeling by Miss Ballard." This recording was released as the flipside of "Lazy Afternoon" which Kaye Ballard was currently performing as star of the stage show The Golden Apple.
Becoming more popular as "Fly Me To The Moon"
In 1960 Peggy Lee recorded the song then made it more popular when she performed it in front of a large television audience on The Ed Sullivan Show. As the song's popularity increased, it became better known as "Fly Me To The Moon" and in 1963 Peggy Lee convinced Bart Howard to make the name change official. In the early 1960s versions of the song were released under its new name by many well known singers, e.g., Nat King Cole,Sarah Vaughan and Brenda Lee.Connie Francis released two non-English versions of the song in 1963: in Italian as "Portami Con Te" and in Spanish as "Llevame A La Luna".
Frank Sinatra included the song on his 1964 album It Might as Well Be Swing accompanied by Count Basie. The music for this album was arranged by Quincy Jones who had worked with Count Basie a year earlier on the album "This Time By Basie" which also included a version of "Fly Me To The Moon". Will Friedwald comments that: "Jones boosted the tempo and put it into an even four/four" for Basie's version but "when Sinatra decided to address it with the Basie/Jones combination they recharged it into a straight swinger... [which]...all but explodes with energy".
Bart Howard estimated that by the time Frank Sinatra covered the song in 1964 more than 100 other versions had been recorded. By 1995 it had been recorded more than 300 times. A search of the website Second Hand Songs will provide a list of some 150 versions of the song.
Association with the Apollo 11 Moon Landing Mission
Frank Sinatra's 1964 recording of "Fly Me To The Moon" became closely associated with NASA's Apollo space program. A copy of the song was played on the Apollo 10 mission which orbited the moon. It became "the first music ever heard on the moon" when played on a portable cassette player by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin after he stepped onto the moon. The song’s association with the Apollo 11 was reprised many years later when Diana Krall sang it at the mission's 40th anniversary commemoration ceremony. She also sang a “slow and solemn version” in 2012 at the national memorial service for Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong.
Appearance in popular culture e.g. film, television and video games
In 1999 The USA based Songwriters Hall of Fame recognised the importance of "Fly Me to the Moon" by inducting it as a "Towering Song" which is an award "...presented each year to the creators of an individual song that has influenced our culture in a unique way over many years.”
^"Eydie In Love", ABC Paramount ABC/ABCS 246, 1958 as detailed in David Edwards, Patrice Eyries, and Mike Callahan, "ABC-Paramount Album Discography, Part 2 ABC-200 to 299 (1957-1959)", http://www.bsnpubs.com/abc/abc200.html, Retrieved 26 November 2013