Meaning of Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland

Over the rainbow

Judy Garland

The Legacy and Resonance of “Over the Rainbow”

Over the Rainbow,” often known as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” is a timeless and genre-defying tune. It was written for the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” and sung by Judy Garland in her legendary portrayal of Dorothy Gale. It was composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg. Not only did the song win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but it also became Garland’s hallmark song.

The Making of a Masterpiece

Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, who frequently collaborated on songs, wrote the song together. Harburg was inspired by “a ballad for a little girl who… was in trouble and… wanted to get away from… Kansas,” while Arlen was looking for a melody with “a long broad line”. Arlen received the tune in a rush of inspiration while driving with his wife, recording the spirit of the song on a piece of music manuscript.

Recording and Distribution

Judy Garland recorded the song on October 7, 1938, with an arrangement by Murray Cutter, and Decca released it as a studio recording in September 1939. Surprisingly, the film version of “Over the Rainbow” was not released until 1956, coinciding with the television broadcast of “The Wizard of Oz”.

Because of its description of a longing for a better life, “Over the Rainbow” resonates powerfully with its listeners, symbolizing the human desires for optimism, happiness, and an escape from life’s problems.

The lyrics of the song, which begin, “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby,” inspire visions of a wonderful paradise beyond reality’s confines. The rainbow metaphor is very powerful, representing a link between Earth and a fantasy realm where wishes come true.

With its uplifting lyrics and global themes, the song has become a hymn of hope and resilience throughout time.

Honors and Legacies

While Judy Garland did not win any prizes for her performance of “Over the Rainbow,” the song did play a vital role in her enduring legacy as an iconic performer. In a joint survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America in 2001, it was chosen as the greatest song of the twentieth century.

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole Cover

In 1993, Israel Kamakawiwoʻole – a Hawaiian singer – famously included a ukulele medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” on his album “Facing Future.” He recorded it in one take after arriving at the studio at 3 a.m., invited by producer Milan Bertosa.

This rendition achieved significant chart success. In the U.S., it reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot Digital Tracks chart in 2004 and was certified Platinum. By 2014, it sold over 4.2 million digital copies. In the UK, it entered the singles chart in 2007, while in Germany, it reached number one in 2010 and was certified 5× gold. The song also saw success in France and Switzerland, achieving top chart positions and Platinum status.

Perspectives from Composers and Lyricists

Harold Arlen’s approach to music, which ranged from jazz-inspired songs to lighthearted patter, was instrumental in the composition of the song. Arlen and Harburg collaborated dynamically, with Harburg offering ideas and Arlen writing the music, followed by Harburg’s lyrical contributions. The octave leap in the opening syllables “Some-WHERE” and the innocent innocence of “Someday I’ll wish upon a star” are significant parts of the song’s charm.

“Over the Rainbow” was more than simply a song for Judy Garland; it was an anthem she referred to as “sacred.” Throughout her career, she interpreted it in many ways, adjusting the speed, timbre, rhythm, phrasing, diction, and pitch selection. It became a feature of her shows, evolving alongside her.

“Over the Rainbow” is a tribute to music’s ageless ability to embody human longing, hope, and the search for a world beyond our own. Its design, symbolism, and the legacy of its performers and creators continue to inspire and move audiences of all ages.

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