50 ‘moon’ songs to celebrate 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing

50 ‘moon’ songs to celebrate 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing
Take one giant leap into 'moon' themed songs for the next few months.
Take one giant leap into ‘moon’ themed songs for the next few months.

Image: nasa

By Shannon Connellan

You’re going to be hearing a lot about the moon in the coming weeks, so why not crank a playlist to match?

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing is coming up on July 20, and to capitalise on the buzz (sorry), Spotify crunched through its catalogue and found that there are more than 185,000 tracks on the music streaming platform with the word “moon” in the title.

To whittle it down, Spotify listed 50 of the most streamed of these tunes, and it could make a pretty great playlist for the coming months. 

Tracks like Ariana Grande’s “Moonlight,” LeAnn Rimes’ Coyote Ugly track “Can’t Fight the Moonlight,” and Frank Sinatra and Count Basie’s classic “Fly Me to the Moon” are no-brainers to celebrate the anniversary, but Creedence Clearwater Revival’s hootenanny of a banger, “Bad Moon Rising,” is the most streamed.

Here’s the list in full. It’s not officially listed as a Spotify playlist, unfortunately, but you can pick and choose.

NASA’s own Third Rock Radio put together a playlist of moon-inspired tunes as well, which is a little more abstract and thematic with inclusions such as Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and, of course, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” It’s the result of more than one million “Moon tunes” submissions requested from the public.

NASA has a time-honoured tradition of playing music from Mission Control as wake-up calls for flight crews onboard space shuttles — staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California even used music to try and wake the sleeping Opportunity rover on Mars.

So, did the Apollo 11 crew, about to land on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, have a playlist themselves? They certainly did. 

NASA reportedly equipped every astronaut from Apollo 7 with a compact Sony TC-50 cassette recorder in order to allow them to log mission notes. But before they held mission recordings, the cassettes could be filled with music for the trip — you’re just going to record over them, right?

In an interview with Vanity Fair, late record executive Mickey Kapp spoke of the mixtapes he would make for astronauts in the 1960s, including one for Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin.

“They could put music on the tapes for the ride up, and then record over it with their notes later, because who cares?” he told the magazine in 2018, explaining he would ask each astronaut for their musical preferences. “From that, I could develop a list of 30 or so songs, since I knew all the repertoire that was out there.”

On Aldrin’s mixtape was reportedly Barbra Streisand’s “People,” “Angel of the Morning,” by Bettye Swann, and Glenn Campbell’s “Galveston.” In a recording of the historic mission, you can hear a mention just before the six-minute mark. “Let’s get some music,” says Aldrin. “How about these tapes?”

Happy landing.

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