Monday, June 2, 2014

Judy Garland: Over The Rainbow (1939)




Judy Garland and her signature song, "Over the Rainbow" from the American movie, The Wizard of Oz. Here are some background notes from Wikipedia on a song that the American Film Institute has ranked as the greatest movie song of all time on its list of "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs."
"Over the Rainbow" (often referred to as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") is a classic Academy Award-winning ballad, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg.[1] It was written for the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, and was sung by actress Judy Garland in her starring role as Dorothy Gale.[1] Over time, it would become Garland's signature song.

About five minutes into the film, Dorothy sings the song after failing to get her aunt and uncle to listen to her relate an unpleasant incident involving her dog, Toto, and the town spinster, Miss Gulch. Dorothy's Aunt Em tells her to "find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble." This prompts Dorothy 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.
The song, written by two Jewish artists, has a certain Jewish sensibility that speaks of the times and place it was written. In an essay on his site, Simcha Jacobovici writes:
The fantasies of immigrant Jews wanting to be “real” Americans were popularized not only by Hollywood producers – there were also the Broadway and Tin Pan Alley Jews. It is no accident, for example, that the greatest Christmas songs of all time were written by Jews. For example, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written by Johnny Marks and “White Christmas” was penned by a Jewish liturgical singer’s (cantor) son, Irving Berlin. But perhaps the most poignant song emerging out of the mass exodus from Europe was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg.

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He was the youngest of four children born to Russian Jewish immigrants. His real name was Isidore Hochberg and he grew up in a Yiddish speaking, Orthodox Jewish home in New York. The music was written by Harold Arlen, a cantor’s son. His real name was Hyman Arluck and his parents were from Lithuania. Together, Hochberg and Arluck wrote “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, which was voted the 20th century’s number one song by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In writing it, the two men reached deep into their immigrant Jewish consciousness – framed by the pogroms of the past and the Holocaust about to happen – and wrote an unforgettable melody set to near prophetic words. Read the lyrics in their Jewish context and suddenly the words are no longer about wizards and Oz, but about Jewish survival.
For many Jewish immigrants Oz was America with all its promises and hope for a new life free from hate and from old traditions; and for others it was Israel with its promises of rebirth and return to a land the Jews could (once again) make their own. In both lands the Jews prospered, because both offered a level of freedom and opportunity not evident in the lands from which they left.

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow
by Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

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