"Over the Rainbow" (often referred to as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") is a classic Academy Award-winning ballad, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. It was written for the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, and was sung by actress Judy Garland in her starring role as Dorothy Gale. It soon became her signature song, and one of the most enduring standards of the 20th century. About five minutes into the film, Dorothy sings the song after failing to get her aunt and uncle to listen to her relate an unpleasant incident involving her dog, Toto, and the town spinster, Miss Gulch. Dorothy's Aunt Em tells her to "find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble." This prompts Dorothy to walk off by herself, musing to Toto, "'Some place where there isn't any trouble.' Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It's not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It's far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain..." at which point she begins singing.
The song is number one on the "Songs of the Century" list compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. The American Film Institute also ranked "Over the Rainbow" the greatest movie song of all time on the list of "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs." It was adopted (along with Irving Berlin's "White Christmas") by American troops in Europe in World War II as a symbol of the United States. Garland herself performed the song for the troops as part of a 1943 command performance. In April 2005, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp recognizing lyricist Yip Harburg's accomplishments. The stamp features the opening lyric from "Over the Rainbow." The song was also used as an Audio Wakeup call in the STS-88 Space shuttle mission in Flight Day 4, which was dedicated to astronaut Robert D. Cabana from his daughter, Sara. The song was honored with the 2014 Towering Song Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, which was sung at its dinner on June 12, 2014 by Jackie Evancho.
The Wizard of Oz
The "Over the Rainbow" sequence, as well as the entirety of the Kansas scenes, was directed by King Vidor, though he was not credited. The song was initially deleted from the film after a preview in San Luis Obispo, because MGM chief executive Louis B. Mayer and producer Mervyn LeRoy thought it "slowed down the picture" and that "the song sounds like something for Jeanette MacDonald, not for a little girl singing in a barnyard." However, the persistence of associate producer Arthur Freed and Garland's vocal coach/mentor Roger Edens to keep the song in the picture eventually paid off. At the start of the film, part of the song is played by the MGM orchestra over the opening credits. A reprise of the song was deleted after being filmed. An additional chorus was to be sung by Dorothy while she was locked in a room in the witch's castle, helplessly awaiting death as the witch's hourglass ran out. However, although the visual portion of that reprise is presumably lost, the soundtrack of it survives and was included in the 5-CD Supreme Edition of the film's soundtrack, released by Rhino Entertainment. In that extremely intense and fear-filled rendition, Dorothy weeps her way through it, unable to finish, concluding with a tear-filled, "I'm frightened, Auntie Em – I'm frightened!" This phrase was retained in the film and is followed immediately by Aunt Em's brief appearance in the witch's crystal, where she is soon replaced by the visage of the witch (Margaret Hamilton), mocking and taunting Dorothy before turning toward the camera to cackle.
Original Garland recordings
first recorded the song on the MGM
soundstages on October 7, 1938, using an arrangement by Murray Cutter
. A studio recording
of the song, not from the actual film soundtrack, was recorded and released as a single by Decca Records
in September 1939. In March 1940, that same recording was included on a Decca 78-RPM four-record studio cast album
entitled The Wizard of Oz.
Although this is not the version of the song featured in the film, Decca would continue to re-release the so-called "Cast Album" well into the 1960s after it was re-issued as a single-record 331⁄3
RPM LP. It was not until 1956, when MGM
released the true soundtrack album from the film, that the film version of the song was made available to the public. The 1956 soundtrack release was timed to coincide with the television premiere of the movie.
The soundtrack version has been re-released several times over the years, including in a "Deluxe Edition" from Rhino Records
'Over the Rainbow' has become part of my life. It's so symbolic of everybody's dreams and wishes that I'm sure that's why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. I've sung it thousands of times and it's still the song that's closest to my heart.
– Judy Garland
Following the film's release in 1939, "Over the Rainbow" became Garland's signature song and she would perform it for the next thirty years, until her death in 1969. Garland performed the song without altering it, singing exactly as she did for the movie. She explained her fidelity by saying that she was staying true to the character of Dorothy and to the message of really being somewhere over the rainbow. In a letter to Harold Arlen, Garland wrote, "'Over the Rainbow' has become part of my life. It's so symbolic of everybody's dreams and wishes that I'm sure that's why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. I've sung it thousands of times and it's still the song that's closest to my heart."
An introductory verse ("When all the world is a hopeless jumble…") that was not used in the movie is often used in theatrical productions of The Wizard of Oz and is included in the piano sheet music book of songs from the film. It was also used in renditions by Frank Sinatra, Doris Day on her 1958 album Hooray For Hollywood (Vol.1), Tony Bennett on his 1961 album Tony Bennett Sings A String Of Harold Arlen, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Norma Waterson (among others). Garland herself sang the introductory verse only once, on a 1948 radio broadcast of The Louella Parsons Show. Lyrics for a second verse ("Once by a word only lightly spoken…") appear in the British edition of the sheet music.
A second bridge is also used occasionally in theatrical productions. The short reprise, deleted from the final cut of the film, uses the melody of the bridge (or "B" section). Pop singer Pink performed the song with the introductory verse at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, 2014, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz .
The song has been translated into Esperanto twice. The first translation was by Londoner Harry Holmes. The second, more recent, translation is by Pejno Simono.
In singles and albums
- Glenn Miller's 1939 versions charted at #1 that year, Bob Crosby at #2.
- Doo-wop group The Demensions charted the song to #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960.
- Australian band Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs' version topped the Australian music charts in 1965 and a later revision of the song also charted in 1974 following Billy Thorpe's blues-based revival of the song at the 1973 Sunbury Pop Festival.
- Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles album Over the Rainbow peaked at #20 on the US R&B charts in 1966.
- Jerry Lee Lewis had a number 10 hit single of the song on the American country music charts in 1980.
- Matchbox reached #15 on the UK singles chart in 1980 with "Over the Rainbow - You Belong to Me (medley)".
- Sam Harris' winning version of the song on the first season of Star Search in 1983, combined on a single with "Hearts on Fire" reached #67 in the UK singles chart in 1985.
- Marusha reached #3 on the German singles charts in 1994 with her dance version.
- Cliff Richard reached #11 on the UK singles chart in 2001 with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World".
- Katharine McPhee, an American Idol runner-up, covered the song in 2006. The single peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the most successful rendition the song on that list.
- Jeff Beck recorded an instrumental of the song on his album Emotion and Commotion, which debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. in 2010.
- Glee Cast reached #43 on the US singles chart and #30 on the UK singles chart in 2010 with their version.
- Nicholas David, a contestant on the third season of the U.S. version of The Voice, charted the song to #96 in 2012, with sales of 48,000 copies.
- In 2012, Italian singer Chiara performed the song during the sixth series of Italian talent show X Factor. A studio recording of the song was included in her debut EP, Due respiri. After being featured on a TV spot, the song charted at number 18 on the Italian Top Digital Downloads chart, and it was later certified gold by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry.
- In 2015 Josh Groban recorded the song for his 2015 album, Stages.
- Jason Castro (singer) recorded the song for his album Jason Castro
- Two years after the release of The Wizard of Oz, the tune appeared throughout the film I Wake Up Screaming (1941), starring Betty Grable and Victor Mature.
- Jimmy Stewart sang a "drunken" comedic version of it on camera in The Philadelphia Story (1940).
- An instrumental piano bar version can be heard in the classic Paul Newman film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), as Newman's character carries a drugged, inebriated and aging movie star up to her hotel room. It was a subtle allegory used by director Richard Brooks to help illustrate and lend pathos to the lead characters.
- It can also be heard in an ironic context in the Vincent Price horror film, Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972).
- Director Nora Ephron used two different versions of the song in her movies Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. The versions used are by Ray Charles and Harry Nilsson but only the latter one is included on a soundtrack release of the film.
- In 1940's movie: "Third Finger, Left Hand," with Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas and Raymond Walburn. Tune played throughout the film in short sequences.
- In the VeggieTales episode The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's, the song is spoofed in the actual film as "Beyond the Barn." However, in the end credits, Mr. Lunt sings a cover of the actual song itself.
- In the 1998 film, Little Voice, Jane Horrocks sings her own version of the song.
- In the 2009 film 9, the original song is played.
- In the 2014 film, Blended, Drew Barrymore sings the song to Adam Sandler's on-screen kids.
- In the 1988 film, Ariel, over the closing credits Olavi Virta sings a Finnish version of the song, "Sateenkaaren tuolla puolen," Finnish lyrics by Usko Kemppi.
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version
Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's album Facing Future, released in 1993, included a ukulele medley of "Over the Rainbow" and Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World". The song reached #12 on Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart the week of January 31, 2004 (for the survey week ending January 18, 2004). In the UK the song was released as a single under the title "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". It entered the UK Official Singles Chart in April 2007 at #68. After several returns to the chart, in September 2008 it reached its peak position so far going up to #46. In Germany, the single also returned to the German Singles Chart in September 2010. After only 2 weeks on that chart, the song had already received gold status for having sold 150,000 copies. In October 2010 the song reached No. 1 in the German charts and 2011 it has been certified 5x Gold for selling more than 750,000 copies. It stayed 12 non-consecutive weeks at the top spot and was the most successful single in Germany in 2010. As of March 2012, it's the 2nd best-selling download ever in Germany with digital sales between 500,000 and 600,000. In France, the song debuted at #4 in December 2010 and reached number one. In the USA, the song was certified Platinum for 1,000,000 downloads sold. To date the song has sold over 4.2 million digital copies as of October 2014. In Switzerland, the song received Platinum, too, for 30,000 copies sold.
This version has been used in several commercials, films and television programs including Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, 50 First Dates, Son of the Mask, Snakes on a Plane, Charmed, South Pacific, Cold Case, ER, Life on Mars, Horizon, and Scrubs. The Kamakawiwoʻole version of the song was covered by the cast of Glee on the season one finale, "Journey," and included on the extended play Glee: The Music, Journey to Regionals, charting at number 30 in the UK, 31 in Canada and Ireland, 42 in Australia, and 43 in the US. Cliff Richard recorded his own version of the medley based on this version with a medley of "Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World" released as a single from the album Wanted, which charted in the UK in 2001 and Aselin Debison recorded the medley for her 2002 album Sweet is the Melody.
This version of the song was recorded in 1988, in Honolulu in just one take. Israel called the recording studio at 3am. He was given 15 minutes to arrive by Milan Bertosa. Bertosa is quoted to say ″And in walks the largest human being I had seen in my life. Israel was probably like 500 pounds. And the first thing at hand is to find something for him to sit on." The building security found Israel a big steel chair. "Then I put up some microphones, do a quick sound check, roll tape, and the first thing he does is 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' He played and sang, one take, and it was over."
Sales and certifications
Eva Cassidy version
Eva Cassidy recorded a version of the song for the 1992 Chuck Brown/Eva Cassidy album The Other Side. After Cassidy's death in 1996, the song was included in her posthumously-released compilation album Songbird, released in 1998 and was released as a CD single in 2001. This version was popularised by the BBC on BBC Radio 2 and on the television show Top of the Pops 2; the latter featured a video recording of Cassidy performing the song. This publicity helped push sales of the compilation album Songbird to #1 in the UK charts. Eva Cassidy's unique rendition of "Over the Rainbow" was selected by the BBC in the UK for their Songs of the Century album in the year 1999. Cassidy's performance of "Over the Rainbow" at Blues Alley was published for the first time in January 2011 on her Simply Eva album.
- CD single
- "Over the Rainbow"
- "Dark End of the Street"
Kylie Minogue version
During her treatment and recovery from breast cancer, Australian recording artist Kylie Minogue released a live cover version of the song. The song's audio was taken directly from Minogue's live DVD Kylie Showgirl, filmed on 6 May 2005 at Earls Court Exhibition Centre. Released on 25 December 2005, it was her first single to be released by digital means only. The release was joined by her cover of "Santa Baby" as a B-side.
Danielle Hope version
Danielle Hope, the winner of the Wizard of Oz-themed BBC talent show Over the Rainbow, released a cover version of the song. The song was released by digital download on 23 May 2010 and a CD single was released on 31 May 2010. As the song was recorded before a winner was announced, runners-up Lauren Samuels and Sophie Evans also recorded versions of the song. These were both later made available for download on 6 June 2010. All three finalists appeared on the CD single's B-side: a Wizard of Oz medley.
The single was a charity record, raising money for both the BBC Performing Arts Fund and Prostate UK.
- UK digital download
- "Over the Rainbow" - 2:58
- CD single
- "Over the Rainbow"
- "The Wizard of Oz medley" - Sophie Evans, Danielle Hope and Lauren Samuels
Ayahi Takagaki version
Japanese voice actress and singer Ayahi Takagaki featured a cover of this song as a B-side track on her single released on October 8, 2014, Ai no Hi.
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'Over the Rainbow' was Kylie's first ever digital only single and was released on Christmas Day 2005. The live track is taken from 'Kylie - Showgirl The Greatest Hits Tour' DVD, which was filmed in May 2005 at London's Earls Court.
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The singer's live version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow was recorded at London's Earl's Court earlier this year and will be accompanied by Kylie's version of Marilyn Monroe's Santa Baby.
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