Saturday, September 9, 1989

50 years ago: Judy Garland charted with "Over the Rainbow"

Over the Rainbow

Judy Garland

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

First Charted: September 9, 1939

Peak: 5 US, 12 GA, 17 HP, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.2 US, -- UK, 5.63 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 60.8 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

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 Movie execs even said it was inappropriate for audiences to see the movie’s star singing in a farmyard. LW 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,” TC but as a declaration of hope for America from two “unabashed lefties” TC who believed in President Roosevelt’s New Deal. TC

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. Charting versions in later years included the Dimensions (#16 US, 1960), Gary Tanner (#69 US, 1978), Jerry Lee Lewis (#10 CW, 1980), Matchbox (#15 UK, 1980), Cliff Richard (#11 UK, 2001), Katharine McPhee (#12 US, 2006), Danielle Hope (#29 UK, 2010), Nicholas David (#96 US, 2012), and the Glee Cast (#44, 2010).

However, it was Garland’s version which “became the most famous and beloved.” JA 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 As she said, “I’ve sung it time and time again and it’s still the song that’s closest to my heart.” TC


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First posted 9/9/2011; last updated 11/22/2022.

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