A 1972 One-Hit, One-Rhyme Wonder

by Kevin Burton

   Because mine is a songwriter’s household we have “what rhymes with’ as one of our buzzwords.

  Buzzphrases I guess that should be.

   Example: My granddaughter Willow is spoiled.  So it’s “Oh my goodness can’t believe how spoiled she is…what rhymes with spoiled?”

   “Coiled, boiled, foiled..” and so on.  Got to write that big hit song about Willow being spoiled, and it starts with the rhymes.

   Which brings me to a terrific early 70s song by one-hit wonder King Harvest. It’s called “Dancing In The Moonlight.” Every line in the whole song rhymes with light-   verses, chorus, everything.  Ever notice that?

   Yet the song does not feel forced. It’s one of the most unforced songs I know of. It’s a preternaturally happy tune. You’d have to work real hard to be sad or anxious while that song is playing. 

   That’s amazing when you consider what a dark place the song came from.

   Songwriter Sherman Kelly was attacked by a gang while on a Caribbean vacation in 1969.  But he turned the experience into a number 13 smash (number 5 in Canada), a song that has lifted the spirits of millions.

   “On a trip to St. Croix in 1969, I was the first victim of a vicious St. Croix gang who eventually murdered eight American tourists,” Kelly wrote.

   “At that time, I suffered multiple facial fractures and wounds and was left for dead. While I was recovering, I wrote ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ in which I envisioned an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyful celebration of life.’”

   “The song became a huge hit and was recorded by many musicians worldwide. ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ continues to be popular to this day.”

   The song was originally recorded by Kelly’s band Boffolongo. In 1971 Kelly’s drummer brother Wells brought the song to the Paris-based band King Harvest, which released it in 1972 with “Lady Come On Home” On the B side.

   The King Harvest version was more keyboard-driven and had smoother production according to the website www.songfacrs.com.

   A sample lyric: “Everybody here is out of sight, they don’t bark and they don’t bite. They keep things loose they keep things light.” 

   You can sign me up for some of that.

   The song was originally released in Europe but went nowhere, according to Songfacts. Only after it was picked up by the American label Perception Records did “Dancing In The Moonlight,” find its way to the Top 40. 

   “The song ended up being an enduring hit for the band, and their only song to make much of an impact (“A Little Bit Like Magic” made number 91 a few months later),” reads the website.  “Sherman Kelly joined the group on tour after the song hit the charts.”

   Former Boffalongo member Dave “Doc” Robinson was lead vocalist, bassist and keyboardist on the recording.

   Rock and roll is full of songs where you hear the lyrics and shudder to think about the mind that produced it.

   This one has me wondering about Kelly’s mindset in a different way. Was he able to forgive his attackers?  He must have been thrilled just to be alive.  To turn such darkness into such light is a notable achievement, one I could never pull off.

   Don’t try this one rhyme thing at home though. It’s not something I would set out to do and probably something producers would advise against.

   But if I stumbled upon a one-rhyme gem like this, I wouldn’t tinker with it. Some songs write themselves. This one has that feel.  

   Song facts mentions “I Saw the Light” by Todd Rundgren as having a similar rhyme scheme. But only part of the first verse rhymes with light. 

   The British band Toploader and Swedish electronic duo Jubel are among the bands who have covered the song according to Songfacts. 

   Friday was National One-hit Wonder Day, declared by God knows who.  King Harvest and “Dancing in the Moonlight” qualify and perhaps outdo the others by having just one rhyme.

   If I do write a Willow is spoiled song, I am sure it will have more than one rhyme. Or maybe I should try the one rhyme thing and rhyme everything with pink

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