We're Off to See the Wizard
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"We're Off to See the Wizard" is one of the classic and most memorable songs from the Academy Award-winning film The Wizard of Oz. Composer Harold Arlen described it, along with "The Merry Old Land of Oz" and "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead", as one of the "lemon drop" songs of the film. The lyrics are by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg.
The melody's first appearance begins with the Munchkins reciting and Judy Garland echoing "Follow the Yellow Brick Road!", which turns into a group vocal by the Munchkins (while Garland skips and dances along the road) and then segues into "You're Off to See the Wizard".
The song occurs as a vocal three more times in the film soundtrack, along with several short instrumental references in the underscore:
- As a duet, sung by Judy Garland and Ray Bolger
- As a trio, sung by Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and Jack Haley onscreen, but Buddy Ebsen's voice heard instead of Haley's
- As a quartet, sung by Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, again Buddy Ebsen's voice, and Bert Lahr
Although Jack Haley replaced Ebsen on-screen and in the Tin Man's solo recording of "If I Only Had a Heart", it was deemed unnecessary for the group vocal to be re-recorded, so the voice in the film as released remains Ebsen's. His voice can be detected by listening for the male voice enunciating the "R" in words like "Wizard", as Ebsen's regional accent emphasized the "R" much more strongly than Haley's did.
In The Wizard of Oz and Other Harold Arlen Songs, Shorty Rogers re-worked the song as (in the words of Talkin' Broadway) "a high-energy, wild Latin dance extravaganza".
A popular urban legend claims that at the very end of the second reprise of this song, a Munchkin or stagehand or some other person could be seen committing suicide, hanging from a rope. Re-examination and digitization of the film have debunked this myth, as the background object turned out to be one of the large birds that were rented from the Los Angeles Zoo and placed on stage to give the indoor scenes a more outdoor look and feel.
The song was later heard in a few MGM animated cartoons, notably a Tom and Jerry one, in which Jerry becomes friends with a small duck and marches off with him at the end to an instrumental version of the song.
American author Scott Meyer flips the expression in the title of his book "Off to be the wizard".
- "Biography of Harold Arlen". Retrieved July 20, 2005.
- "Harold Arlen: Composer's Centennial features his perennials". Talkin' Broadway: Sound Advice. Retrieved July 20, 2005.
- Sheet music cover for We're Off To See The Wizard at the U.S. Library of Congress