Wednesday, September 9, 2009

70 Years Ago: Judy Garland charts with "Over the Rainbow"

First posted 9/9/2011; updated 3/28/2019.

image from

Over the Rainbow

Judy Garland

Writer(s): Harold Arlen/E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (see lyrics here)

First Charted: Sepember 9, 1939

Peak: 5 US, 12 GA, 17 HP (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales *: 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Radio Airplay *: --

Video Airplay *: --

Streaming *: --

* in millions


There are few songs more associated with a movie more than “Over the Rainbow” is with The Wizard of Oz and then-sixteen-year-old Judy Garland’s performance of it. It topped the AFI’s list of movie songs. However, the song was initially deleted when it was thought to slow down the film. LW-80 Movie execs even said it was inappropriate for audiences to see the movie’s star singing in a farmyard. LW-80 It only made it back in when Harold Arlen, one of the song’s writers, and executive producer Arthur Freed lobbied on the song’s behalf. AB40

Arlen and lyricist “Yip” Harburg originally penned the song not as “a little girl’s plea for a silver lining,” CR-211 but as a declaration of hope for America from two “unabashed lefties” CR-211 who believed in President Roosevelt’s New Deal. CR-211

As was common in the first half of the 20th century, multiple versions of the song charted. In 1939, four acts took “Rainbow” into the top 10. Interesting, Garland’s was neither the most successful nor the first to chart. Glenn Miller and Larry Clinton both debuted with it the week of August 19. Miller’s went to #1 the same week Garland hit the charts. A week later, Bob Crosby hit with his #2 version.

However, it was Garland’s version which “became the most famous and beloved.” JA-154 Hers was selected by the RIAA as the top song of the 20th century and won the Oscar for Best Song. She had no problem with the “theme song around which she constructed her career.” LW-80 As she said, “I’ve sung it time and time again and it’s still the song that’s closest to my heart.” CR-211

Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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