An Attempted Murder & Rape Inspired The Happy Song “Dancing In The Moonlight”

The Hit Song “Dancing In The Moonlight” Was Written After Musician Sherman Kelly Was Nearly Beaten To Death And His Girlfriend Was Raped

Sherman Kelly 1970 photo: Sherman Kelly

Sleeping peacefully on the beach at St. Croix in 1969, musician Sherman Kelly awoke to five men beating him with baseball bats.

After he blacked out, one of the men attacking Kelly raped his girlfriend Adrienne. The other four were preparing to take their turn at rape.

The nightmare was stopped by Kelly who though gravely injured fought back and frightened the gang away.

How could such a horrible event could lead to writing a song with peppy refrains like these?

We like our fun and we never fight
You can’t dance and stay uptight
It’s a supernatural delight
Everybody was dancin’ in the moonlight

Dancing in the moonlight
Everybody’s feeling warm and bright
It’s such a fine and natural sight
Everybody’s dancing in the moonlight

The gang who attacked the couple were later found responsible for the deaths of eight American tourists.

Sherman Kelly, Survivor

Sherman Kelly, the writer of Dancing In The Moonlight first recorded the song with the band Boffolongo. Kelly sang lead and played Wurlitzer electric piano; Larry Hoppen guitar; Dave “Doc” Robinson, bass; and Peter Giansante drums. Wells Kelly, Sherman’s brother, dubbed in some percussion.

This is the original and less familiar version of the song and was released in August 1970.

Kelly says of the attack, “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.”

Here on Dutch TV, Kelly tells the backstory of Dancing In The Moonlight.


The best known version of Dancing In The Moonlight is by the band King Harvest from 1972, with Dave “Doc” Robinson singing lead vocals. Underneath the keyboard intro to the song you can hear what sounds like a drum brush. It isn’t.

For a unique sound, Robinson picked up a toilet brush and scraped it against the wall.  Dancing In The Moonlight hit number 13 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart. Soon after, King Harvest’s record company folded effectively stopping any momentum they had, leaving them a one-hit wonder.

Talent runs in the Kelly family. Sherman Kelly’s brother Wells Kelly, went on to found Orleans in 1972 with Larry Hoppen. Orleans had huge pop hits including Still The One, Dance With Me and Love Takes Time.

Meanwhile Sherman Kelly toured with King Harvest and later wrote songs for Orleans.  Wells Kelly died in 1984 in London after a night of partying and Sherman Kelly found it too painful to continue in the music business. Sherman established himself in the Ithaca, NY area becoming a social worker / psychotherapist. In recent years, Sherman Kelly has found inspiration in music and has begun to write again.

With all the negativity in today’s music and the world, Sherman Kelly’s outlook is a refreshing one.  For such a song like Dancing In The Moonlight to come out of such a horrible experience shows what sort of person Sherman Kelly is.

With the decline of the singer-songwriter, no one seems to make songs like these anymore. If they do, is there anyone who will promote them and more importantly – an audience to appreciate them?

10 thoughts on “An Attempted Murder & Rape Inspired The Happy Song “Dancing In The Moonlight”

  1. Myra Marsh

    I love this song.
    What happened to both of them were horrible.
    The horrid story Knoxville nightmare will forever change you after reading. 5 blacks 4men 1 woman abducted tortured Chris and channon for hours. All 5 should have received death penalty. This hate crime was covered up by the media. Obama was running for president
    I’m sick and tired of these people who always cover up for blacks

  2. P

    Thanx for this..unbelievable..and to think I never knew about this and I’m his age..crazy I tell ja..sherman is a fine chap

  3. Ibwom1

    I will never be able to listen to this song without my heart breaking a little every time. I love this song and never heard this story.

    1. any body

      I can’t fault them for going to the islands at the time it happened. I fault the society for accepting such activity. It’s one of the reasons the Caribbean Islands will always be 200 years behind the rest of the world. Is it culture? Genetics? I don’t know for sure, but I do recognize a pattern when I see it.

      1. Oz

        Humans across the world share genetics to pretty much a perfect match. One thing is having a family genetic defect another is a whole society that’s a cultural thing. Genetics don’t play a big enough role from society to society we are still too closely related.

    1. B.P. Post author

      If you watched the video all the way through, he didn’t say except to imply that she was a mentally strong woman and dealt with the trauma as well as she could.


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