885 Greatest Songs By Women: #1, Judy Garland - Over The Rainbow (1939)

I don't know where to begin. "Over The Rainbow" is my favorite song from The Wizard Of Oz - my all-time favorite movie - and I HATE most musicals. As a child I fell in love with the film, the music, even Judy Garland as Dorothy. Many decades later I feel the same way about this masterwork of fantasy films.

Beginning in 1956, and for many years afterward, the 1939 classic was shown on TV every year with gargantuan ratings, and in this era before home video and streaming were available I had to watch it on network TV every year.

I believed that Garland's performance of "Over The Rainbow" was so wonderful that I never wanted to hear anyone else sing it. Cover versions just never rang true, and I've often said a law should be passed preventing anyone else from ever singing it. Immunity will only be given to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (better known as Iz) for his Hawaiian folk version performed solo on a ukulele.

"Over the Rainbow" was written specifically for the film by renowned American composer Harold Arlen - who wrote hundreds of songs - and lyricist E. Y. Harburg. It won an Oscar for Best Original Song.

Just a few minutes into the movie Dorothy becomes quite upset because of an encounter she and her dog, Toto, had with the mean Almira Gulch portrayed by Margaret Hamilton who turns into the Wicked Witch Of The West flying on a broom during the tornado sequence. The teenager wants to leave Kansas with Toto for someplace more desirable and this longing leads her to sing "Over The Rainbow," the absolute musical highlight of this or any other film.

Garland recorded a studio version of the song in 1939 that was commercially released on a 78 RPM record by Decca in 1940, but it's not the version that appeared in The Wizard Of Oz. The one we all know and love from the movie was never available in record stores until 1956 when MGM issued the original soundtrack on a 33 1/3 RPM record, the same year the movie premiered on CBS television.

Garland and "Over The Rainbow" were inseparable for the rest of her life and she always tried to perform it as she did in the movie.