Over the Rainbow

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"Over the Rainbow"
Song by Judy Garland
Published 1939
Genre Ballad
Composer(s) Harold Arlen
Lyricist(s) E.Y. Harburg

"Over the Rainbow" is a ballad, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg.[1] It was written for the movie The Wizard of Oz and was sung by actress Judy Garland, in her starring role as Dorothy Gale.[1] It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and became Garland's signature song, as well as one of the most enduring standards of the 20th century.

About five minutes into the film, Dorothy sings the song after failing to get Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and the farmhands to listen to her relate an unpleasant incident involving her dog, Toto, and the town spinster, Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). Aunt Em tells her to "find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble". This prompts her 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.

Influence and legacy[edit]

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 the song the greatest movie song of all time on the list of "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs".

The very first artist to record the song was actually big band singer Bea Wain, who at the time was a featured vocalist with the Larry Clinton Orchestra. MGM prohibited release of this version until The Wizard of Oz (1939) had opened and audiences heard Judy Garland perform it.[2]

It was adopted (along with Irving Berlin's 1942 hit "White Christmas") by American troops in Europe in World War II, as a symbol of the United States.

In April 2005, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp recognizing lyricist Yip Harburg's accomplishments; it features the opening lyric from the song.[3]

The song was 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.[4]

The song was honored with the 2014 Towering Song Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was sung at its dinner on June 12, 2014, by Jackie Evancho.[5]

In April 2016, The Daily Telegraph listed the song as number 8 on its list of the 100 greatest songs of all time.[6]

In March 2017, Garland's original rendition of the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant".[7]

The Wizard of Oz[edit]

The song's sequence and the entirety of the Kansas scenes were 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 it in the film eventually paid off—it is for this sequence that the film is best known and remembered.[8]

At the start of the film, part of the song is played by the MGM orchestra over the opening credits. A reprise of it was deleted after being filmed. An additional chorus was to be sung by Dorothy while she was locked in the Witch's castle, helplessly awaiting death as the hourglass ran out. However, although the visual portion of that reprise is presumably lost, the soundtrack of it survives and was included in the 2-CD Deluxe Edition of the film's soundtrack, released by Rhino Entertainment in 1995. In that extremely intense and fear-filled rendition, Dorothy cries 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 crystal ball, where she is soon replaced by the visage of the witch (Hamilton), mocking and taunting Dorothy before turning toward the camera to cackle. Another instrumental version is played in the underscore in the final scene, and over the closing credits.

Original Garland recordings[edit]

On October 7, 1938, Judy Garland first recorded the song on the MGM soundstages, using an arrangement by Murray Cutter.

In September 1939, a studio recording of the song, not from the actual film soundtrack, was recorded and released as a single by Decca Records.

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 33​13 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 film.[9] The soundtrack version has been re-released several times over the years, including in a "Deluxe Edition" from Rhino Records in 1995.[10]

'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, in a letter to Harold Arlen[11]

Following the film's release in 1939, the song became Garland's signature song and she would perform it for the next 30 years, until her death in 1969. She performed it without altering it, singing exactly as she did for the film. 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.[12]

In 2017, Garland's recorded rendition of the film was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant".[7]


An introductory verse ("When all the world is a hopeless jumble…") that was not used in the film 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, by Al Bowlly, by Doris Day on her album Hooray For Hollywood (1958) (Vol.1), by Tony Bennett on his albums Tony Bennett Sings a String of Harold Arlen (1961) and Here's to the Ladies (1995), by Ella Fitzgerald, by Sarah Vaughan, and by Norma Waterson, among others. Garland herself sang the introductory verse only once, on a 1948 radio broadcast of The Louella Parsons Show.[13] Lyrics for a second verse ("Once by a word only lightly spoken…") appear in the British edition of the sheet music.[14]

International artists[edit]

The first German version in the English language was recorded by the Swing Orchestra Heinz Wehner (1908–1945) in March 1940 in Berlin. Wehner, at this time an international well-known German Swing Artist,[15] also took over the vocals.[16] The first German version in German language was sung by Inge Brandenburg (1929–1999) in 1960.[17]

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole version[edit]

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World"
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole Facing Future.jpg
Single by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
from the album Facing Future
Released 1993
Format CD single
Recorded 1988
Label Mountain Apple Company
Songwriter(s) E.Y. Harburg, Bob Thiele, George David Weiss

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's album Facing Future, released in 1993, included a ukulele medley of the song and Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World". It reached number 12 on Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart the week of January 31, 2004 (for the survey week ending January 18, 2004).[18] In the UK, it was released as a single under the title "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". It entered the UK Official Singles Chart in April 2007 at number 68. In Germany, the single also returned to the German Singles Chart in September 2010. After only 2 weeks on that chart, it had already received gold status for having sold 150,000 copies.[19] In October 2010, it reached No. 1 in the German charts and 2011 it has been certified 5x Gold for selling more than 750,000 copies.[19] It stayed 12 non-consecutive weeks at the top spot and was the most successful single in Germany in 2010.[20] As of March 2012, it's the 2nd best-selling download ever in Germany with digital sales between 500,000 and 600,000.[21][22] In France, it debuted at number 4 in December 2010 and reached number one.[23] In the USA, it was certified Platinum for 1,000,000 downloads sold.[24] To date it has sold over 4.2 million digital copies as of October 2014.[25] In Switzerland, it received Platinum, too, for 30,000 copies sold.[26]

This version of the song 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.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33] Cliff Richard recorded his own version of the medley based on this one 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 3 am. He was given 15 minutes to arrive by Milan Bertosa. Bertosa is quoted as saying ″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 large 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."[34]

Eva Cassidy version[edit]

"Over the Rainbow"
Eva Cassidy Over the Rainbow single.jpg
Single by Eva Cassidy
from the album The Other Side/Songbird
Released January 29, 2001 (UK)
Format CD single
Label Blix Street
Producer(s) Chris Biondo

Eva Cassidy recorded a version of the song for the 1992 Chuck Brown/Eva Cassidy album The Other Side. After her death in 1996, it was included in her posthumously-released compilation album Songbird, released in 1998 and was released as a CD single in 2001. It was popularized 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 it.

When released as a single, "Over the Rainbow" debuted at number 88 on the UK Singles Chart in February 2001 and climbed to number 42 in May, becoming Cassidy's first single to chart in the United Kingdom. In Scotland, the cover was slightly more successful, reaching number 36 and giving Cassidy her first top 40 hit in that region. The publicity of the song helped push sales of the compilation album Songbird to number one on the UK Albums Chart in March 2001.

Cassidy's recording was selected by the BBC for their Songs of the Century album in 1999. Her performance of it at Blues Alley was published for the first time in January 2011 on her Simply Eva album.

Track listings[edit]

CD single

  1. "Over the Rainbow"
  2. "Dark End of the Street"


Chart (2001) Peak
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[35] 36
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[36] 42

Danielle Hope version[edit]

"Over the Rainbow"
Danielle Hope Over the Rainbow.jpg
Single by Danielle Hope
Released May 23, 2010 (UK)
Format Digital download, CD single
Genre Pop
Length 2:58
Label Polydor Records

Danielle Hope, the winner of the Wizard of Oz-themed BBC talent show Over the Rainbow, released a cover version of the song. It was released by digital download on May 23, 2010 and a CD single was released May 31, 2010.[37] As it was recorded before a winner was announced, runners-up Lauren Samuels and Sophie Evans also recorded versions of it. These were both later made available for download on June 6, 2010. All three finalists appeared on the CD single's B-side: a Wizard of Oz medley.[37]

The single was a charity record, raising money for both the BBC Performing Arts Fund and Prostate UK.[38]

Track listings[edit]

UK digital download
  1. "Over the Rainbow" – 2:58
CD single
  1. "Over the Rainbow"
  2. "The Wizard of Oz medley" – Sophie Evans, Danielle Hope and Lauren Samuels

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2010) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[39] 29

Ariana Grande version[edit]

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
Single by Ariana Grande
Released June 6, 2017 (2017-06-06)
Format Digital download
Genre Pop
Length 4:32
Label Republic
  • E.Y. Harburg
  • Harold Arlen
Ariana Grande singles chronology
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
"No Tears Left to Cry"

American singer Ariana Grande released the song on June 6, 2017 as a single to raise money as part of her benefit concert One Love Manchester, after 22 people were killed in the Manchester Arena bombing at Grande's concert on May 22, 2017.[40]

Grande performed the single for the first time on TV at the One Love Manchester concert on June 4, 2017. Beginning on June 7, the singer added the song to her Dangerous Woman Tour setlist for the remainder of that tour.[41][42]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2017) Peak


UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[43] 60

Other versions[edit]

On albums and singles[edit]

On film and television[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 134. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/bea-wain-dead-big-band-singer-was-100-1031758
  3. ^ http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/07/somewhere-over-the-rainbow-a-classic-now-linked-to-a-tragedy/
  4. ^ "NASA Human Spaceflight Database - STS-88 Wakeup Calls". 
  5. ^ Shriver, Jerry (June 13, 2014). "Songwriters gala links old and new with a 'Rainbow'". USA Today. 
  6. ^ "100 greatest songs of all time". 
  7. ^ a b "National Recording Registry Picks Are 'Over the Rainbow'". Library of Congress. March 29, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2016. 
  8. ^ "The Movie - Post-Production and Premiere - OzWiki". Thewizardofoz.info. Retrieved 2012-11-22. 
  9. ^ "The Wizard of Oz Soundtracks (MGM label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. 
  10. ^ "The Wizard of Oz (Rhino Movie Music label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on 2012-01-26. 
  11. ^ The Wonderful World of Oz Documentary, The Wizard of Oz (3-Disc Collector's Edition DVD, 2005).
  12. ^ Garland, Judy. "The Wizard of Oz (Decca label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. 
  13. ^ Scott Brogan. "Judy Garland MP3's". Thejudyroom.com. Archived from the original on 2012-11-16. Retrieved 2012-11-22. 
  14. ^ Over the Rainbow. London: Francis, Day, & Hunter, Ltd. 
  15. ^ Dick McBougall, Down Beat 12/1937
  16. ^ Over the Rainbow, Swing-Orchester Heinz Wehner, engl. Refraingesang Heinz Wehner, Telefunken A 10101, Matrizennummer 24836, recorded March 23, 1940
  17. ^ Wenn Du in meinen Träumen (Over The Rainbow), Inge Brandenburg mit dem NDR-Tanzorchester, recorded November 2, 1960
  18. ^ Billboard, page 65 (February 7, 2004).
  19. ^ a b "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank ('Over the Rainbow')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  20. ^ "Musik-Jahrescharts: "Sanfter Riese" und der Graf setzen sich durch - media control". Media-control.de. Archived from the original on 2011-01-07. Retrieved 2012-11-22. 
  21. ^ ""Poker Face" knackt 500.000er-Download-Marke - media control". Media-control.de. Retrieved 2012-11-22. 
  22. ^ "600.000 Verkäufe: Michel Teló legt Download-Rekord hin - media control". Media-control.de. 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2012-11-22. 
  23. ^ musicline.de
  24. ^ "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - November 22, 2012". RIAA. Retrieved 2012-11-22. 
  25. ^ Gary Trust (October 21, 2014). "Ask Billboard: The Weird Connections Between Mary Lambert". Billboard. Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  26. ^ Steffen Hung. "Die Offizielle Schweizer Hitparade und Music Community". Hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2012-11-22. 
  27. ^ Flandez, Raymund (June 9, 2010). "'Glee' Season One Finale, 'Journey:' TV Recap". The Wall Street Journal. Les Hinton. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Glee is number 1 Again" (Press release). PR Newswire. May 26, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  29. ^ "Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive: 26th June 2010". The Official Charts Company. June 26, 2010. Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  30. ^ "Canadian Hot 100: Week of June 26, 2010 (Biggest Jump)". Billboard. June 26, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  31. ^ "Irish Music Charts Archive: Top 50 Singles, Week Ending 17 June 2010". Chart Track. GfK. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  32. ^ "The ARIA Report: Week Commencing July 12, 2010" (PDF) (1064). Australian Recording Industry Association. July 12, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Hot 100: Week of June 26, 2010 (Biggest Jump)". Billboard. June 26, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  34. ^ "Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: The Voice Of Hawaii". 50 Great Voices. NPR. December 6, 2010. Archived from the original on March 9, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2015. 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. 
  35. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  36. ^ "Eva Cassidy: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  37. ^ a b "Winning Dorothy to release 'Rainbow'". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Danielle Hope ('Over the Rainbow')". Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  39. ^ "Danielle Hope: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  40. ^ Reporters, Telegraph (June 7, 2017). "Ariana Grande releases Somewhere Over the Rainbow as charity single for Manchester benefit". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved April 11, 2018. 
  41. ^ "Ariana Grande resumes Dangerous Woman tour in Paris and says she's thinking of Manchester terror victims 'every step of the way' in poignant Instagram". The Sun. June 7, 2017. Retrieved April 11, 2018. 
  42. ^ Tanzer, Myles. "Ariana Grande", The Fader, May 30, 2018
  43. ^ "UK Charts June 22, 2017". auspOp. April 1, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017. 
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 330. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4. 
  45. ^ Phares, Heather. "Katharine McPhee". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 May 2018. 
  46. ^ Gill, Andy (9 April 2010). "Album: Jeff Beck, Emotion & Commotion". The Independent. Retrieved April 5, 2018. 
  47. ^ Milosheff, Peter (March 24, 2010). "The Demensions, White Doo Wop From The Bronx". The Bronx Times. Archived from the original on December 8, 2010. 
  48. ^ "The Billboard Hot 100 Week of 22 December 2012". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2012. 
  49. ^ Pop Archives. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  50. ^ Savorelli, Antonio (13 April 2010). Beyond Sitcom: New Directions in American Television Comedy. McFarland. pp. 39–. ISBN 978-0-7864-5843-1. Retrieved July 18, 2017. 

External links[edit]