As someone who grew up listening to standards and watching some of those old variety shows featuring folks like Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett and the original Rat Pack, the song "Fly Me To The Moon" is old hat to me.
Written and composed by Bart Howard in 1954, I was surprised to discover that the very first singer to try it out was actress and comedian Kaye Ballard. Now I believe that 99.9% of the readers of this article have probably never heard of her. In fact, aside from myself, I can only think of 2 other fellows with any connection to this blog who may have heard of her. As for me, she was one of the earliest TV personalities that I ever remember. My two adjectives for her are zany and loud-mouthed.
Usually when the title pops up in my head, the two folks who readily come to mind are Frank Sinatra and the aforementioned Tony Bennett as seen above. When these guys sang it, you knew that "Fly Me To The Moon" was a classic.
About 41 years after "Fly Me To The Moon" was first sung by Ballard, the legendary anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion"（新世紀エヴァンゲリオン）launched in October 1995. Of course, part of the show's lasting success was the opening theme, "Zankoku na Tenshi no Tehze"（残酷な天使のテーゼ）that seems to be an absolute must for any anime fan to get to know. In fact, one friend even remarked that it should be sung as an anthem of sorts. Well, I like my anime but I will simply listen and enjoy "Zankoku na Tenshi no Tehze".
For years, though, I also heard that a version of "Fly Me To The Moon" was also used in "Evangelion". And my first thought was "Why would anyone think of using a Tony Bennett song in an anime?" At the time, jazz and anison couldn't quite mesh with me...and this was before I discovered "Tank" for the later anime hit "Cowboy Be-Bop".
Then today, I had my follow-up appointment with my doctor to find out that my bad cholesterol had decreased somewhat, and I was able to get a small translation assignment done pretty lickety-split. So my levels of whimsy were frankly off the scale and I decided to check out what "Evangelion" could do with "Fly Me To The Moon".
Dang, quite a lot actually. I had the window to my room open today so a lot of refreshingly cold air wafted in. Plus I heard the ending theme for "Evangelion" which was indeed "Fly Me To The Moon". And boy, my goose pimples were extremely exhausted! Singer and graphic designer Claire Littley had me at "Fly". Well, that's not exactly true...Toshiyuki Omori（大森俊之）who composed "Zankoku na Tenshi no Tehze" arranged the old standard as a nearly tear-inducing and goosebump-exploding bossa jazz epic right from note one. I still don't know who on the production staff was inspired to get this song but I hope he got a fat bonus at the end of the year. Tony could be standing up and giving some applause.
Littley's full version is above. Apparently, a couple of versions of the CD single was released a few weeks after the beginning of "Evangelion" with Claire and "Zankoku" singer Yoko Takahashi（高橋洋子）singing their takes on "Fly Me To The Moon".
Takahashi's 4-beat version is above in its TV size. Her take is a more straight-ahead jazz combo. The CD single that had both versions peaked at No. 52 on Oricon, while the other single that had Takahashi's "Zankoku" and then Claire's "Fly Me" got all the way up to No. 17.
But that wasn't the only version of "Fly Me To The Moon" associated with Japanese pop culture that I remember. Hikaru Utada（宇多田ヒカル）recorded her tribute to the song as a coupling song to her 5th single "Wait & See ~ Risk"（Wait&See 〜リスク〜）from April 2000. Her take was officially titled "Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)".
The famous "White Christmas", to my surprise, actually had an original opening verse which referred to boring sunny life in Los Angeles. I found out that "Fly Me To The Moon" is in the same situation. It also had an opening verse that was usually not sung but is sung here by Utada and also by Bennett above. Not surprisingly, Utada's tribute has more of that downtown grooviness but the arrangement is still light enough that I have categorized it as a pop song rather than something from the R&B genre. "Wait & See" hit No. 1 on the charts and broke the million barrier, becoming the 3rd-ranked single of 2000.
I couldn't finish this article without mentioning that one of the seiyuu in "Evangelion", veteran Kotono Mitsuishi（三石琴乃）, also covered "Fly Me To The Moon" along with some of the other voice actresses on the show. Considering her most famous role, I kinda wonder if it shouldn't have been titled "Fly Me To The (Sailor) Moon". Har de har har!