Week 129: “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland

The desire to be somewhere else (or someone else) has never been more perfectly captured than it is in this song.

And I’m not just talking about the lyrics. Consider the fact that just about everyone involved in it changed their name. The lyrics are by Yip Harburg (born Isadore Hochberg). The music is by Harold Arlen (born Hyman Arluck). And of course, it is sung by the iconic Judy Garland, who may not have become so iconic if she had stuck with her original name, Frances Ethel Gumm. Doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Place the song in its context within “The Wizard of Oz”, and you get an all-out anthem for anyone who’s yearning to escape. You can’t help but sympathize with Dorothy, and share her desire to skip town, even if you know that it’s physically impossible to go “over” a rainbow, nature’s finest and most fleeting optical illusion.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. For a short song, it’s got a long intro. But it sets the scene nicely; you can imagine Dorothy sighing as she looks towards the horizon and gets ready to sing.

2. You can hear the happy little bluebirds singing at 2.10.

3. Garland sings it simply. No big diva flourishes; at 17, she may have not had the voice for it. But apparently, in all the years that followed its initial success, she never decorated the song when singing it live, preferring to stay true to the character of Dorothy and its moment within the film.

Recommended listening activity:

Making a wish list.

Buy it here.