Saturday, February 17, 1990

50 years ago: Cliff Edwards charted with “When You Wish Upon a Star”

When You Wish Upon a Star

Cliff Edwards with the Ken Darby Singers & Victor Young’s Orchestra

Writer(s): Leigh Harline (music), Ned Washington (words) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: February 17, 1940

Peak: 10 US, 11 GA, 15 HP (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 13.2 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“When You Wish Upon a Star” may be the most recognizable of the Disney classics, and there have been many. The song was introduced in the animated Disney film, Pinocchio, by Cliff Edwards. He lent his voice to the character of Jiminy Cricket and crooned the sentimental ballad about the power of dreams. It won the Academy Award for Best Song and while that feat became run-of-the-mill for songs from Disney films in the 1990s (five times from 1989 to 1999), it would take nearly 50 years after “When You Wish Upon a Star” before another Disney song accomplished the feat.

Edwards was a popular star in the 1920s and ‘30s known as Ukulele Ike. He worked in vaudeville, musical comedy, and film in the beginning of the sound era, but his career was in decline when he landed the part of Jiminy Cricket. His recording of “Star” was one of the first taken directly from a soundtrack and given a commercial release. NRR He was accompanied on the recording by Victor Young & His Orchestra as well as the Ken Darby Singers. PM Edwards’ “natural tenor and clear falsetto make the song a classic.” NRR

Ned Washington and Leigh Harline wrote the song. Washington, the song’s lyricist, was prolific in writing songs for films while Harline served as a Disney staff composer. SF The song’s message about making dreams come true resonated; it would later become the theme for the Walt Disney Company, SB used in promotional campaigns for Disney’s theme parks. The first 7 notes of the melody are even used as the horn signal for the ships on the Disney cruise line. SF

The song topped the jukebox charts for eight weeks and ranked among the year’s top sheet music sellers. TY Edwards’ version was one of four to hit the charts in 1940. His take on the song peaked at #10 while Glenn Miller took it to #1 and Guy Lombardo had a #5 hit. Horace Heidt also got to #12 with it. PM In 1960, Dion & the Belmonts charted with a top 30 version of the song. HT Chet Atkins, Rosemary Clooney, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Billy Joel, and Olivia Newton-John are among the other artists to record the song.

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Cliff Edwards
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 211.
  • NRR National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress The Full National Recording Registry
  • SB
  • SF
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 104.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 146, 635.
  • HT Joel Whitburn (2009). Top Pop Singles 1955-2008 (12th edition). Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc.

First posted 2/17/2013; last updated 10/4/2021.

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