About the song

If you are a fan of 70s pop music, you might have heard of the song “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest. This catchy tune has a cheerful vibe and a catchy chorus that invites everyone to dance under the moonlit sky. But did you know that this song has a dark and tragic backstory? In this blog post, we will explore the history of this song and how it was inspired by a horrific event that happened to its writer, Sherman Kelly.

Sherman Kelly was a keyboard player and songwriter who wrote “Dancing in the Moonlight” in 1969. He was working in a nightclub on the island of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, when he decided to take a boat trip with his friends and girlfriend to the nearby island of St. Croix. However, the boat ride was rough and Kelly suffered from severe seasickness. He and his girlfriend decided to stay overnight on the beach, hoping to recover and enjoy the scenery.

Unfortunately, their peaceful night turned into a nightmare when they were attacked by a local gang, known as the Fountain Valley Gang. The gang leader raped Kelly’s girlfriend while the others beat him up brutally. Kelly tried to fight back and protect his girlfriend, but he was left for dead with multiple facial fractures and wounds. He was later taken to a hospital, where the doctors doubted he would survive.

While he was recovering from his injuries, Kelly wrote “Dancing in the Moonlight” as a way of imagining an alternate reality, where he and his girlfriend could enjoy a joyful and harmonious celebration of life. He later said: “I envisioned an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyous celebration of life. It was just me imagining a better world than the one I had just experienced in St. Croix.”

Kelly recorded the song with his band Boffalongo in 1970, but it did not become a hit. He then gave the song to his brother Wells Kelly, who was the drummer of another band called King Harvest. King Harvest recorded and released “Dancing in the Moonlight” in 1972, featuring a prominent keyboard countermelody by Kelly himself. The song became a huge success, reaching number 5 in Canada and number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Dancing in the Moonlight” has since been covered by many artists, such as Toploader, Jubël, Thin Lizzy, and Liza Minnelli. It has also been featured in many movies, TV shows, commercials, and video games. The song remains a popular and beloved classic that makes people want to dance and have fun.

However, behind its upbeat melody and lyrics lies a sad and shocking story that reveals the resilience and creativity of its writer, Sherman Kelly. He turned his trauma into a beautiful song that has touched millions of people around the world.