Searching for Orion

It’s interesting to look at the search terms people use to find my blog. The three most popular are “Cars the movie,” “Cow killer wasp,” and “Orion is a-rising.”

Several months ago, I made reference to a song I’d learned in sixth grade that went:

Orion is a-rising
You can see his stars a-blazing
In the middle of a clear-eyed country sky
And it’s never too surprising
That the sky is still amazing
Way out here where nothing hides it from my eyes
And sleeping outside in a bag as a kid
It seems like the best thing that I ever did
And chasing the shadows and the tracks in the snow
Don’t you know?
The moon is on the wane
And it looks like it might rain
Or maybe snow
And how are we to stay here
If there’s no room left to play here
Or to grow? Don’t you know? Don’t you know?

Several people have posted questions and comments about the song, but nobody seems to know who wrote it, who originally sang it, or where to find the sheet music for it.

I e-mailed my junior-high science fair partner, who has been one of my dearest friends for more years than either of us is likely to own up to, and whose mom happens to be a music teacher. I’m hoping she’ll be able to track down the book that had the song in it and shed some light on the subject for us.

If not, ASCAP has an online database containing song titles and publication information. No lyrics, but I may just take some comp time one of these afternoons and start calling the phone numbers listed for the publisher of each “Orion” on the list and see if I can track down the information that way.

Search engines turn up a few references to the song — always in blogs or listservs, and always with the same theme: “I remember singing this great little folk song when I was a kid. Does anybody know how it goes or where to find the music?”

It seems to be the great mystery of my generation. If I can solve it, I expect my blog stats will go through the roof.

The bad news is that I still haven’t tracked down the song. The good news is that while I was searching for it, I came across a different song with the same title by an artist named Gary Moon.

I liked the song — and Moon’s voice, which sounds a LOT like James Taylor’s — so much that I went ahead and downloaded it even though it’s not the Orion I was looking for.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to search for the real thing. Stay tuned….


UPDATE: The composer has surfaced. Please click here to read what he has to say or to find out how to contact him.

UPDATE 2: Click here to hear the song.


56 thoughts on “Searching for Orion”

  1. This is so funny….I, too, learned that Orion song in 6th grade, back in Wadsworth, Ohio. I can even remember the tune. For some reason, it popped into my head today & I just thought I’d do a search on the lyrics. So, I found your blog very amusing. I have no idea where you could find the sheet music for it. I remember our music teacher had it on a record that we would sing to. (This was back in 1976 or 1977.) Anyway, I always loved that song!

  2. I too learned this song but I think it was third or fourth grade (75/76). The song has stuck with me for all these years and have sang it to both of my kids as they’ve fallen asleep on more occasions than I can count. Unfortunately I do not know the artist but know the melody well. I’m glad I came across your blog as I’ve realized I had some of the lyrics wrong and had forgotten a few lines. Thanks for helping me to set the song straight so I can continue to enjoy it for the next 30, 40, 50 years or for as long as God allows me to.



  3. The day is getting colder
    and I really start to wonder
    why they’re clouding all our country skies to gey
    and how are we to stay here
    if theres no room left to play here
    or to grow? Dont you know? Dont you know.

    Trying to find sheet music for my daughter for thi song…….

  4. Terry,
    Sixth grade for me as well…1976. Jackson Elementary in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Something haunting and uber-mournful about it. I remember the melody, but the lyrics escaped me until I did a google search…”the moon is on the wane, and it looks like it might rain or maybe snow.” Seems appropriate to bring the song back, since all the sixties fears about the environment are proving true.

  5. WOOo Hoooo, I too, learnt the song “Orion Is Arisin” in 1970, 3rd grade, North Plains Elementary, on Minot Air Force Base – not only does it bring back memories but i have sung it to my children and now to my grandchildren. If you ever find a recording of it I would love to hear about it. Thanks ever so much. By the same token, if I find it I will be sure to return and post it to your Blog

  6. I also googled after the song came to the back of my mind — probably leanred in mid seventies at school.

    what about a verse that starts:

    “The world is getting older, you can hear it in the thunder, and someday the rain might come, and wash us all away?

  7. I was googling the song and came upon your blog also. I know I learned it in grade school in the seventies also at Hayes Elementary School in Fridley, MN.

  8. 5th grade for me, Burlington Iowa. I remember making fun of the “sleeping in a bag” line and being forced to sing the song acapella in front of the whole class. Maybe that’s why the song has stuck with me all of these years.

  9. 3rd or 4th grade for me…(78 or 79). I loved this song so much, and it has stayed with me for so long, that my son’s middle name is Orion. I, too have tried to find the background info for this song with similar luck…none. Every so often, I will get the wild hair to try again…hence the finding of your site.

    I am Soooooo glad not to be the lone person on the planet who remembers this fond bit of my childhood! It’s almost like a support group reading these messages!

  10. Daniel —

    Which elementary school in Burlington, Iowa? I learned it at North Hill elementary in, I think you have it right, 5th grade. I guess that would have been th 76-77 school year.


  11. We sang the song when I was in grade school in Laurel, Montana in the seventies. Mr. Robert Engel was the music teacher. I’ve been trying to remember the words to sing to my three year old. (yes, my three year old). It is great to see other people remember singing it.

  12. Oh. My. God.

    Same story as all of you guys. 76ish. Those phonograph records that were used by my elementary school music teacher, Mr. Paulic.

    I have googled forever, and this time it was here.

    I am surprised to find that I remembered the first stanza verbatim. I figured I goofed it up in all the years.

    THANK YOU for the sanity check!

  13. Wow, I feel like a youngster. I learned this song back in 5th or 6th grade, too. That’s about ’89 for me. I learned it in Hickory Hills, IL and have thought about the song many times since, but couldn’t remember more than the first two lines. I thought it would be nice to sing to my new son tonight so I tried looking up the lyrics. Thanks for the words!

  14. I learned this song in 5th or 6th grade (’84 or ’85) at West Point Elementary in West Point, NY, and I’ve always remembered it verbatim, probably because I sing it to myself now and again. It was exciting to see it written down: It’s really real and not just in my mind! I had the first verse down exactly; I don’t think we ever sang the other verses. It is a beautiful song in its melancholy way, and I’m thrilled to know that it’s been special for other people, too. I was always kind of surprised that I remembered it so well, but I guess it’s the kind of song that strikes a chord.

  15. This is utterly fantastic. I’ve been searching for Orion for a long time and stopped by your blog on a few occasions. It’s a great story in itself, this convergence of fans of an obscure but compelling memory. Then, to read these last two posts from people who have heard it as late as ’89. That’s hopeful. *laughs*

    I’ve written a young adult novel and included the song in chapter 2.

    Happy hunting. I’ll stop back and see if you’ve been able to find anything.

  16. OH MY GOODNESS I AM SOOO HAPPY!! It is great to see that thsi song has touched so many peoples lives. I to had this song in music class in Lincoln Nebr in the 70’s. This song was my favorite…I remember a line ..Orion is a-risin I can see it in the horizon… anyway I also named my son after this song his name is Kyler Orion. I have googled it for ever!! Please contact me if you ever get an actual recording of it I would love to hear it again, it would bring back so many fond memories..

  17. 4th grade ( i think) Stillwater Elementary, Stillwater, NY
    I never forgot the song and I too have rocked both of my sons asleep singing it – matter of fact i have fortgotten some of the words and my search for them led me to this most interesting blog!

  18. 6th Grade, Westridge Elementary, Kansas City, MO

    I think I was the only kid in my class to realize that the song was about ecology… of course, our music teacher at the time was not the most inspired, many teachers say that our class of kids was possibly the meanest that had been through the school, and “Happy Days” was more likely to keep their (OK, OK, I’ll add myself to that list, but under protest) attention than anything earth-shakingly important.

    Still, the song stuck with me… and was one for which I could never entirely remember the melody, or all the words.

  19. Canterbury Elementary, Cleve Hts Ohio, 1974?
    Thanks for the lyrics and for giving me a search result. I’ve been
    humming this for a VERY long time.

  20. Moorlands Elementary in Bothell, Washington, around ’80-’82. Sad that nobody can find where it came from. I’ve been searching for it for a long time. I play the harp and I’m planning to write some sheet music for it sometime in the next few months. I’ll post again if I manage to do it.

  21. I heard this song in 6th grade as well at Bryan Elementary School sometime in ’74 or ’75 in Tampa, Florida. Its surprises me that there are other people out there where this song somehow stuck in their heads. I can’t remember hearing this song more than once in music class but somehow it stayed in my head all these years. I am hoping one day it will be easily available online, I wouldn’t mind hearing the song again.

  22. Thanks for the web site. I’ve also been singing bits and pieces of that song or 30some years and just finally decided to look it up. You guys are amazing! : )

  23. Thanks so much! There are many things that I don’t remember, but this song has always stuck with me. My son is 9, and I sang it him since before he was even born. He loves it, but only wants me to sing it at night in case he cries! (not my singing, the lyrics…at least I hope:). It always drove me crazy that I could only remember the first verse (and I would have to sing it again and again until he feel asleep!). I am thrilled to mow have all the words and plan on letting the composer know how much the song is loved by myself and my son!

  24. Isn’t this a hoot?! I learned this song from my 6th grade music teacher, Mr. Cox, at J.B. Ward School in Du Quoin, IL in 1983-1984, and it has been rattling around in my head ever since. I often find myself humming it when I walk my dogs before bed as I look skyward. It is so funny to me that the song has such a following!!

  25. Ditto. I learned that song in grade school in Charleston SC. Some others that i remember are “Pretty Saro” and 2Senor Don Gato”. Lots of Peter Paul and Mary songs too. They were all in a songbook we were issued for our music classes, cant remember the name of the book or the publishers. I sing these songs to my children too.

  26. Orion was in my sixth grade music books in Kansas City, Missouri in the mid-seventies. My sister sang it at home and it nearly killed me waiting two years until I could learn it too. Thanks so much for having a fabulous memory!

  27. I was able to track this information dowm

    This song was published in the 1974, 1978, 1981, and 1985 editions of the school music program Silver Burdett Music, Grade 6, published by Silver Burdett Company. “Orion” is Part 1 of a musical composition entitled Orion Suite, which was written by James Zimmerman. This piece had not been published prior to its use in the 1974 edition of Silver Burdett Music.

    Contact the composer.

    James Zimmerman
    210 West 101st Street
    Apt. 9D
    New York, New York 10025

  28. My 6th grade too in Alexandria, VA. It made such a lasting impression that to this day I cant help but sing it when I go camping (thing I do a lot) my daughter has learned it from me and I was never able to find anything about it. Thanks for the info.

  29. Ditto – Learned this song in the mid 70’s in elementary school and it pops into my head whenever I see the constellation. Now that you good folks have found the lyrics – I plan to teach it to my girl scout troop and stick it in the heads of another generation!

  30. similar story to all of you guys – 5th or so grade right at the turn of the 70s/80s.

    i will remember this song until the day i die. if a recording can be found, please email me at deltaforce_iktomi(at)

  31. This song has popped into my head again and again since I learned it in school about 25 years ago. So many people above have expressed the same things I’m feeling right now…I’m just amazed. Talk about a generation’s lost anthem.

    Has anybody written to Zimmerman in New York? He’s gotta be getting up there by now, and he should hear that he’s probably got more fans than most bands while he can still appreciate it.

  32. I was looking for the lyrics to this song as well. The only thing that I could remember was Orion is arisin you can see his stars ablazin way out here where nothing hides him from my eyes. I learned it in 6th grade also in 1977. I was in a foster home at that time and the 6th grade class was in Pennsylvania underneath a drugstore. I think it may have been the Greenwood school although I don’t remember for sure. I know that there were two 6th grade classrooms there with a room in between with a piano where they gave piano lessons. I put in this information hoping that it can trigger some memories for some other people and maybe I can find some people that went there at the same time.

  33. I, too, learned this song in 6th grade; in Hutchinson, Minnesota. I could only remember the first verse and chorus but I have taught that much to the kids I teach. I also sang it to my old horse when it was time for him to be humanely euthanized–and then I went out and got a tattoo of Orion.

  34. Hi! Same here! 84-86-ish in Bergenfield, NJ, Lincoln School, Mrs. Graham. ;o) Now I’m a music teacher and want to teach this song to my own students! Can’t find a recoing anywhere, but thanks to you guys, I have a start…Silver Burdett 1985, grade 6. I’ll be calling the middle schools and those teachers who’ve been teaching forever!

  35. I am so pleased to see that I am not alone in my love for this song. I am proud to be the youngest poster though! ;-P I too was taught this song in the 6th grade at Robert Moses Middle School – in 1991 !! lol. It brings tears to my eyes to see all the lyrics written out, and to read so many similar stories. I have a tape with the song on it somewhere, I am going to dig it out! I was told by my music teacher that the copy I learned was played by Rum Tum Tugger… but I doubt this. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories and Love of this song… if anyone else finds out more information please let us know! I was searching for the guitar tabs so I could play it for my nieces and nephews.

  36. I’m sitting here balling! Over the years I’ve sang the first verse of this song over and over. It’s one of the few songs I remember from music class in the 6th grade. Today, on my 44th birthday I decided to do a search and found it. It reminds me of my 6th grade boyfriend who was killed in a housefire that year. THANK YOU FOR POSTING THE LINK TO THIS SONG!

  37. I was humming that song in my head again and was trying to remember it long enough to google it. I was sure I sang in in elementary school but I could not remember what year or why (I think it must have been my hippie kindergarten teacher around in 1975 who also taught us One Tin Soldier). I’m so glad I’m not the only person with that ghost of a song still swrilling about in the grey matter.

  38. I would sing this song as a kid to whomever would listen–and then as an adult–Orion never left my mind–thank you for such a beautiful memory and song!

  39. Hello,
    Thanks for this post. And sorry, no relation to James Zimmerman noted above.
    I remember singing this song during elementary school music class in Akron, Pennsylvania, back in the early 70’s.
    As many others said, for some reason this song stuck with me all this time. I did try to search for it years ago with no luck.
    Thanks for posting the lyrics. I had some right, but not all.

  40. I remember this song from 6th grade music class. Orion was one of three songs that I’ve never been able to forget. Sail Away to America and Waltzing Matilda live on in my memory and I find myself humming the tune or singing my dusty memory of the songs whenever I look at a sailing ship, see Orion’s belt in the country sky, or come across anything Austrailian! I’m always struck by how simple folk songs learned so long ago still resonate with those of us today. I know they’ll always remind me of simpler times… times that I find it harder and harder to believe my daughter will ever know. Being a musician and educator myself, I hope that I can find one of the old Silver Burdett Music book to pass on the tradition to my own family! Thank you for posting this!

  41. I found a copy on eBay a while back. They’re around. Also, the composer has just released a CD of his music — including “Orion” — as a fundraiser for the Nature Conservancy. E-mail jkzim (at) verizon (dot) net to order a copy. The CD is $15. I imagine Jim would be willing to sell you a copy of the sheet music as well if you wanted to learn the song for your daughter.

  42. 1976 seems to be a popular year for learning this song. I learned it in 6th grade Outdoor Education in Denver CO. This was a week long camp that the entire 6th grade went to. Had a lot of fun. I don’t know why this song is still in my memory, but it is there with the tune and lyrics. As I drove home tonight, I saw Orion peaking over the tops of the houses and this song came to mind. Thanks for confirming the lyrics.

  43. LOL! I love it! I also learned in Seventh grade (1981/82) at Indian Valley JR High in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania! Mr. Hempler I think! something like that…we also learned another song about two groups of people who fought over buried treasuer and it ended up being a plaque that said “peace on earth” Ahhhh memories! THanks for hte blog Emily! Ya made my day! W

  44. Wanda: The song you’re thinking of is “One Tin Soldier.” We used to sing it all the time in high-school chorus. Oddly enough, I actually posted a YouTube video of Cher’s version on my blog last Thursday.

  45. Fourth grade for me, Mrs. Starr at University Lab School in Minot, ND (abt. 1988-89) Always remembered this song through the years but just finally thought to look it up online. Glad I found this site!!!

  46. Wow, thanks for both the memories, and for the song itself! This song almost singlehandedly spurred my interest in both astronomy and camping. What a marvelous gift Mr. Zimmerman gave us all. Thanks for doing all the legwork on finding this treasure!!

  47. Learned in public school in Easton Pennsylvania (think half way between rural and rust-belt) circa 1978-1979 (5th or 6th grade music education). This was a song I could relate to because I was one of the few kids I knew that spent a lot of time up in the mountains around the Delaware water gap sleeping outside in a bag, before it became a weekend tourist destination for NY city dwellers. Lots of overnighters staring at the stars once the campfire burned to coals and listening to the skunks skirt around the campsite looking for stray marshmallows.

    I didn’t remember the 2nd verse, but the first one and refrain always resonated and still does, and I never forgot the tune.

    “Sleeping outside in a bag as a kid, seemed like the best thing that I ever did” … and still does.

    I lived for those cold June nights ( yeah were too! ) and banked them in my memory to lean on during the psychologically lean times.

    I’m going to cross-post this on one of your other blogs about the song.

  48. I guess this song has “Staying Power”..huh? This is funny and freaky at the same time. I learned it in Grade 5 or 6 in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada at Bready elementary school. Like most every other posters here, the song has stayed with me ever since, and I decided to Google it tonight.

  49. Yep same here. This song will pop into my head at random times. I also learned this in Wadsworth, Ohio. They are tearing down the school I learned this in. I am thinking it was the 4th or 5th grade for me.

  50. I learned this song in 3rd/4th grade at West End Elementary (now Elizabeth E Barth) in Pottstown, PA. This song always stuck with me and I am so happy to see how many people this song stuck with. This song resonated with me as I was one of those kids who slept under the stars while camping. I attribute this song to one of the reasons I do what I do today – teach ecology science at a nature park.

  51. I, as you’ll learned the song in 4th grade in MD when I came to this country. The 1st versus stuck in my head all these years, it even led me to The Tume of Luxor in Africa. This song has more meaning then you’ll realize.

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