Over the Rainbow

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"Over the Rainbow"
Judy Garland Over the Rainbow 2.jpg
Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow" in The Wizard of Oz
Song by Judy Garland
Published1939 by Leo Feist, Inc.
Composer(s)Harold Arlen
Lyricist(s)E.Y. Harburg

"Over the Rainbow" is a ballad composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg.[1] It was written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and was sung by actress Judy Garland[2] in her starring role as Dorothy Gale.[1] It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and became Garland's signature song.

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 story of 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.


Composer Harold Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg often worked in tandem, Harburg generally suggesting an idea or title for Arlen to set to music, before Harburg contributed the lyrics.[3] For their work together on The Wizard of Oz, Harburg claimed his inspiration was "a ballad for a little girl who... was in trouble and... wanted to get away from... Kansas. A dry, arid, colorless place. She had never seen anything colorful in her life except the rainbow". Arlen decided the idea needed "a melody with a long broad line".[4]

By the time all the other songs for the film had been written, however, Arlen was feeling the pressure of not having the required song for the Kansas scene. Arlen would often carry blank pieces of music manuscript in his pockets to jot down short melodic ideas. Arlen described how the inspiration for the melody to "Over the Rainbow" came to him suddenly while his wife Anya drove:

"I said to Mrs. Arlen... 'let's go to Grauman's Chinese ... You drive the car, I don't feel too well right now.' I wasn't thinking of work. I wasn't consciously thinking of work, I just wanted to relax. And as we drove by Schwab's Drug Store on Sunset I said, 'Pull over, please.' ... And we stopped and I really don't know why—bless the muses—and I took out my little bit of manuscript and put down what you know now as 'Over the Rainbow.'"[5]

The song was originally sung in A-flat major.[6] Arlen later wrote the contrasting bridge section based on the idea of 'a child's piano exercise'.[7]

The music of Over the Rainbow has a marked resemblance, both harmonic and melodic, to the theme of the intermezzo (known as Ratcliff's Dream) of the opera Guglielmo Ratcliff by Pietro Mascagni, composed in 1895.[8]

The Wizard of Oz[edit]

The "Over the Rainbow" and Kansas scenes were directed by the uncredited King Vidor, because the film's main director, Victor Fleming, was called in by David O. Selznick and MGM to direct Gone with the Wind. Fleming would later return to oversee the editing and post-production on The Wizard of Oz. The song was initially deleted from the film after a preview in San Luis Obispo, California, because MGM chief executive Louis B. Mayer thought it "slowed down the picture," was far over the heads of its targeted child audience, and sounded "like something for Jeanette MacDonald, not for a little girl singing in a barnyard". Fleming, producer Mervyn LeRoy, associate producer Arthur Freed, and Roger Edens, who was Judy Garland's vocal coach and mentor, fought together to have the song reinserted back into the film and they eventually won.[citation needed]

At the start of the film, part of the song is played by the MGM orchestra over the opening credits. A reprise of the song was deleted after being filmed. The reprise was to be sung by Dorothy while she was locked in the Wicked Witch's castle, helplessly awaiting death as the hourglass is running out. Although the visual portion of that reprise is presumably lost, the soundtrack still exists and was included in the 2-CD Deluxe Edition of the film's soundtrack released by Rhino Entertainment in 1995. In that intense rendition, Dorothy cries her way through it, unable to finish, concluding with, "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 Wicked Witch, (Margaret Hamilton), mocking and taunting Dorothy before turning the camera toward her cackle. Another instrumental version is played in the underscore in the final scene and over the closing credits.[citation needed]

Recordings by Judy Garland[edit]

On October 7, 1938, Judy Garland recorded the song on the MGM soundstage with an arrangement by Murray Cutter. In September 1939, a studio recording of the song, not from the film soundtrack, was recorded and released as a single for Decca. In March 1940, that same recording was included on a Decca 78 four-record studio cast album entitled The Wizard of Oz. Although this isn't the version that appeared in the film, Decca continued to release the "cast album" into the 1960s after it was reissued on disc, a 3313-rpm album.

The film version of "Over the Rainbow" was unavailable to the public until the soundtrack was released by MGM in 1956 to coincide with the television premiere of The Wizard of Oz.[9] The soundtrack version has been re-released several times over the years, including a deluxe edition by Rhino in 1995.[10]

After The Wizard of Oz appeared in 1939, "Over the Rainbow" became Garland's signature song. She performed it for thirty years and sang it as she had for the film. She said she wanted to remain true to the character of Dorothy and to the message of being somewhere over the rainbow.[11]

Other lyrics[edit]

An introductory verse ("When all the world is a hopeless jumble...") that was omitted from the film is sometimes used in theatrical productions of The Wizard of Oz and is included in the piano sheet music from the film. It was used in versions by Tony Bennett, Al Bowlly, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Mandy Patinkin, Trisha Yearwood, Melissa Manchester, Hilary Kole, Jewell, and Norma Waterson. Judy Garland sang the introductory verse at least once, on a 1948 radio broadcast of The Louella Parsons Show.[12] Lyrics for a second verse ("Once by a word only lightly spoken...") appeared in the British edition of the sheet music.[13]

Awards and honors[edit]

In March 2017, "Over the Rainbow" sung by Judy Garland was entered in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as music that is "culturally, historically, or artistically significant".[14] The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) ranked it number one on their Songs of the Century list. The American Film Institute named it best movie song on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs list.

"Over the Rainbow" was given the Towering Song Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was sung at its dinner on June 12, 2014, by Jackie Evancho.[15] In April 2005, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Yip Harburg that includes a lyric.[16]

It was sent as an audio wakeup call to astronauts aboard the STS-88 space shuttle mission on Flight Day 4, dedicated to astronaut Robert D. Cabana by his daughter Sara.[17]

German versions[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 a well-known international German swing artist,[18] also took over the vocals.[19] The first German version in German language was sung by Inge Brandenburg (1929–1999) in 1960.[20]

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
LabelMountain Apple Company
Songwriter(s)E.Y. Harburg, Bob Thiele, George David Weiss

On the album Facing Future (1993), Israel Kamakawiwoʻole included "Over the Rainbow" in a ukulele medley with "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. Kamakawiwoʻole called the recording studio at 3 a.m. He was given 15 minutes to arrive by Milan Bertosa. Bertosa said, "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." A security guard gave 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."[21]

Chart activity and sales[edit]

Kamakawiwoʻole's version reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot Digital Tracks chart during the week of January 31, 2004 (for the survey week ending January 18, 2004).[22] In the U.S., it was certified Platinum for 1,000,000 downloads sold.[23] As of October 2014 it had sold over 4.2 million digital copies.[24]

In the UK his version 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 two weeks on that chart, it received gold status for selling 150,000 copies.[25] In October 2010, it reached number one on the German charts. In 2011 was certified 5x gold for selling over 750,000 copies.[25] It stayed 12 non-consecutive weeks at the top spot and was the most successful single in Germany in 2010.[26] In March 2010 it was the second best-selling download in Germany with digital sales between 500,000 and 600,000.[27][28] In France, it debuted at number four in December 2010 and reached number one.[29] In Switzerland, it received Platinum status for 30,000 copies sold.[30]

Kamakawiwoʻole's version of "Over the Rainbow" has been used in commercials, films and television programs, including 50 First Dates, Charmed, Cold Case, ER, Finding Forrester, Horizon, Life on Mars, 9, Meet Joe Black, Scrubs, Snakes on a Plane, Son of the Mask, and the television series South Pacific. The Kamakawiwoʻole version was sung by the cast of Glee on the season one finale "Journey" and included on 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 U.S.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37]

Eva Cassidy version[edit]

"Over the Rainbow"
Eva Cassidy Over the Rainbow single.jpg
Single by Eva Cassidy
from the album The Other Side and Songbird
B-side"Dark End of the Street"
ReleasedJanuary 29, 2001 (2001-01-29)
LabelBlix Street
Producer(s)Chris Biondo
Eva Cassidy singles chronology
"Over the Rainbow"
"People Get Ready"

Eva Cassidy recorded a version of the song for The Other Side (1992). After her death in 1996, it was included on the posthumous compilation Songbird (1998). In December 2000, a clip of Cassidy performing the song was featured on the BBC2 program Top of the Pops 2. Following the premiere, it became the program's most-requested video in history, and demand for the album soared after the clip was re-aired in January 2001.[38] The song was subsequently released as a single the same month, on January 29.[39]

"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, it reached number 36, giving Cassidy her first top-forty single in that region. It was her highest-charting song in the United Kingdom until 2007, when "What a Wonderful World" reached number one.[40] The song also reached number 27 in Ireland in December, becoming her only top-forty hit in that country.

Cassidy's recording was selected by the BBC for its Songs of the Century album in 1999. Her performance at Blues Alley appeared on the album Simply Eva (2011).

Track listing[edit]

UK CD single[41]

  1. "Over the Rainbow" – 4:58
  2. "Dark End of the Street" – 3:52


Chart (2001) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[42] 27
Scotland (OCC)[43] 36
UK Singles (OCC)[44] 42
UK Indie (OCC)[45] 10

Cliff Richard version[edit]

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"/"What a Wonderful World"
Cliff OverRainbow.JPG
Single by Cliff Richard
from the album Wanted
ReleasedDecember 3, 2001 (2001-12-03)
Songwriter(s)H. Arlen, E.Y. Hamburg, George David Weiss, G. Douglas
Producer(s)Alan Tarney
Cliff Richard singles chronology
"The Millennium Prayer"
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"/"What a Wonderful World"
""Let Me Be the One""

On 3 December 2001, the British singer Cliff Richard recorded a cover of the mashup "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"/"What a Wonderful World" on his album Wanted. At the time of release the official website for the album explained that it consisted of "hits Cliff's always 'Wanted' to record."[46] The album is primarily made up of cover songs, including songs by artists such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Carole King and Tina Turner. The inspiration for the album came when Richard was sent a copy of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's recording of "Over the Rainbow" combined with "What a Wonderful World" weeks into the year 2000 and he knew immediately he wanted to record it.[47]

The mashup reggae-themed track with a lot of similarities to the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole arrangement was released as the debut single from the album Wanted and charted on the UK Singles Chart peaking at number 11 and stayed for 6 weeks in the British charts.[48] Richard premiered it on the Open House with Gloria Hunniford on 6 November 2001. On the date of release of the single on 3 December 2001, he was invited to the ITV programme This Morning to perform it live. He also performed it at the Premier Christmas Spectacular at Methodist Westminster Central Hall in London on 14 December 2001.


Chart (2001) Peak
UK Singles (OCC)

Danielle Hope version[edit]

"Over the Rainbow"
Danielle Hope Over the Rainbow.jpg
Single by Danielle Hope
ReleasedMay 23, 2010 (UK)

Danielle Hope, the winner of the BBC talent show Over the Rainbow, released a cover version of the song as a digital download on May 23, 2010, and a single on May 31, 2010.[49] As it was recorded before a winner was announced, runners-up Lauren Samuels and Sophie Evans also recorded versions.[49]

The single was a charity record that raised money for the BBC Performing Arts Fund and Prostate UK.[50]

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 (2010) Peak
UK Singles (OCC)[51] 29

Ariana Grande version[edit]

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
Ariana Grande - Somewhere Over the Rainbow.jpg
Promotional single by Ariana Grande
ReleasedJune 6, 2017 (2017-06-06)

American singer Ariana Grande released a version of the song on June 6, 2017, to raise money at her benefit concert One Love Manchester after 22 people were killed in the Manchester Arena bombing at Grande's concert on May 22, 2017.[52]

Live performances[edit]

Grande sang the single for the first time on TV at the One Love Manchester benefit concert on June 4, 2017. It was then added to the setlist of the Dangerous Woman Tour.[53]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download – Live[54]
1."Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Live from Manchester)4:32


Chart (2017) Peak
UK Singles (OCC)[55] 60

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Ref.
Various June 6, 2017 Digital download Republic [54]

Robin Schulz, Alle Farben and Israel Kamakawiwoʻole version[edit]

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World"
Robin Schulz Alle Farben Israel Kamakawiwoole-Somewhere Over the Rainbow What a Wonderful World song.jpg
Song by Robin Schulz, Alle Farben & Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
ReleasedSeptember 7, 2021 (2021-09-07)
LabelSony Music Entertainment, B1/Warner Music

In July 2021, German musician, DJ and record producer Robin Schulz and the German DJ and producer Alle Farben released a mashup "Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World" based on the deceased Kamakawiwi'ole's version and voice on Sony Music Entertainment, B1/Warner Music. The new remix version has charted in Germany, France and Belgium. A new official video was also released.


Chart (2021) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[56] 48
France (SNEP)[57] 138
Germany (GfK Entertainment charts)

Other versions[edit]

  • Art Tatum recorded four jazz covers in 1939, 1948, 1953, and 1956 where he extravagantly improvises over the original melody on piano. The 1939 version was recorded only three days after the movie came out.[58]
  • The Demensions recorded a version that reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960.[59]
  • In 1966, the girl group Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles recorded the song for their album Over the Rainbow, which reached No. 20 on the R&B album charts as a doo-wop rendition.
  • Nicholas David, a contestant on the third season of The Voice, recorded a version that went to number 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2012 with sales of 48,000 copies.[60]

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. ^ Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York City: Oxford University Press. pp. 328–330. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  3. ^ Shapiro, Gary. "'Over the Rainbow': The Story Behind the Song of the Century". Columbia News. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  4. ^ Frisch, Walter (2017). Arlen and Harburg's Over the Rainbow. Oxford University Press. p. 20.
  5. ^ Alonso, Harriet Hyman (2012). Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist. Wesleyan University Press. p. 106.
  6. ^ Garland, Judy. "Over the Rainbow". MusicNotes. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  7. ^ Frisch, Walter (2017). Arlen and Harburg's Over the Rainbow. Oxford University Press. p. 22.
  8. ^ https://www.ilmessaggero.it/spettacoli/musica/mascagni_strada_oz-3271836.html
  9. ^ "The Wizard of Oz Soundtracks (MGM label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011.
  10. ^ "The Wizard of Oz (Rhino Movie Music label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on January 26, 2012.
  11. ^ Garland, Judy. "The Wizard of Oz (Decca label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007.
  12. ^ Scott Brogan. "Judy Garland MP3's". Thejudyroom.com. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  13. ^ Over the Rainbow. London: Francis, Day, & Hunter, Ltd.
  14. ^ "National Recording Registry Picks Are 'Over the Rainbow'". Library of Congress. March 29, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  15. ^ Shriver, Jerry (June 13, 2014). "Songwriters gala links old and new with a 'Rainbow'". USA Today.
  16. ^ May, Patrick (June 8, 2017). "'Over the Rainbow': 10 things to know about classic American song". The Mercury News. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  17. ^ "NASA Human Spaceflight Database – STS-88 Wakeup Calls". Archived from the original on May 16, 2001.
  18. ^ Dick McBougall, Down Beat 12/1937
  19. ^ Over the Rainbow, Swing-Orchester Heinz Wehner, engl. Refraingesang Heinz Wehner, Telefunken A 10101, Matrizennummer 24836, recorded March 23, 1940
  20. ^ Wenn Du in meinen Träumen (Over the Rainbow), Inge Brandenburg mit dem NDR-Tanzorchester, recorded November 2, 1960
  21. ^ "Israel Kamakawiwoʻole: The Voice Of Hawaii". 50 Great Voices. NPR. December 6, 2010. 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.
  22. ^ Billboard, page 65 (February 7, 2004).
  23. ^ "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database – November 22, 2012". RIAA. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  24. ^ Gary Trust (October 21, 2014). "Ask Billboard: The Weird Connections Between Mary Lambert". Billboard. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  25. ^ a b "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank ('Over the Rainbow')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  26. ^ "Musik-Jahrescharts: "Sanfter Riese" und der Graf setzen sich durch – media control". Media-control.de. Archived from the original on January 7, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  27. ^ ""Poker Face" knackt 500.000er-Download-Marke – media control". Media-control.de. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  28. ^ "600.000 Verkäufe: Michel Teló legt Download-Rekord hin – media control". Media-control.de. March 30, 2012. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  29. ^ "musicline.de". Archived from the original on September 21, 2012. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  30. ^ Steffen Hung. "Die Offizielle Schweizer Hitparade und Music Community". Hitparade.ch. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
  31. ^ Flandez, Raymund (June 9, 2010). "'Glee' Season One Finale, 'Journey:' TV Recap". The Wall Street Journal. Les Hinton. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  32. ^ "Glee is number 1 Again" (Press release). PR Newswire. May 26, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  33. ^ "Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive: 26th June 2010". Official Charts Company. June 26, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  34. ^ "Canadian Hot 100: Week of June 26, 2010 (Biggest Jump)". Billboard. June 26, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  35. ^ "Irish Music Charts Archive: Top 50 Singles, Week Ending 17 June 2010". Chart Track. GfK. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  36. ^ "The ARIA Report: Week Commencing July 12, 2010" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. July 12, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 23, 2017. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  37. ^ "Hot 100: Week of June 26, 2010 (Biggest Jump)". Billboard. June 26, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  38. ^ Sexton, Paul (March 10, 2001). "Blix's Eva Cassidy Gone but Far from Forgotten" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 113 no. 10. p. 8. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  39. ^ "New Releases – For Week Starting January 29, 2001: Singles" (PDF). Music Week. January 27, 2001. p. 39. Retrieved August 20, 2021.
  40. ^ "Eva Cassidy". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  41. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Eva Cassidy – Over the Rainbow". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  42. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Over the Rainbow". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  43. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  44. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  45. ^ "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  46. ^ Cliff Richard Wanted album at AllMusic
  47. ^ From preface in Wanted CD booklet
  48. ^ Official Charts.com: Cliff Richard discography and charting songs
  49. ^ a b "Winning Dorothy to release 'Rainbow'". Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  50. ^ "Danielle Hope ('Over the Rainbow')". Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  51. ^ "Danielle Hope: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  52. ^ 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.
  53. ^ Tanzer, Myles. "Ariana Grande", The Fader, May 30, 2018
  54. ^ a b "Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Live from Manchester) – Single by Ariana Grande". iTunes Store (UK). June 27, 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  55. ^ "UK Charts June 22, 2017". Official Charts Company. April 1, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  57. ^ "ROBIN SCHULZ, ALLE FARBEN & ISRAEL KAMAKAWIWO'OLE – SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW / WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  58. ^ Art Tatum: Over the Rainbow (1939, 1948, 1953, 1956), retrieved November 6, 2021
  59. ^ Milosheff, Peter (March 24, 2010). "The Demensions, White Doo Wop From The Bronx". The Bronx Times. Archived from the original on December 8, 2010.
  60. ^ "The Billboard Hot 100 Week of 22 December 2012". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2012.

External links[edit]