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Intro

Rainbows, lemon drops, stars, birds, more rainbows… sounds like a bunch of children's book stuff to us. Judy Garland's 1939 classic "Over the Rainbow" is popular with more than just the five years-and-under crowd, though. It is one of the most widely known, copycatted, and beloved songs of the entire 20th century—it's so ubiquitous, in fact, that sometimes we forget to stop and think about what the song is really saying.

Does anyone else find it hilarious that the Recording Industry Association of America's Song of the Century is a nursery school-friendly serenade addressed to a tiny dog? Just sayin'. Whether you're amused, enamored, or annoyed at the thought of Dorothy, Toto, and the whole Wizard of Oz thing, read on for more about the fabulous genesis of this somewhat ridiculous (but ultimately pretty amazing) show tune.

About the Song

ArtistJudy Garland Musician(s)Judy Garland (vocals), the Victor Young Orchestra (instrumentals on Decca version), MGM Studio Orchestra (instrumentals on film version)
AlbumWizard of Oz soundtrack
Year1939
LabelDecca (studio single), MGM (film)
Writer(s)E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, Harold Arlen
Producer(s)Decca (single), Marilee Bradford and Bradley Flanagan (film)
Learn to play: Tablature, Sheet Music
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
Try Listen and Learn (BETA)

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
What was going in 1939? You may recall that there was some sort of Great Depression happening. It was the eve of a rather important World War (the second one, if you must know). John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath that year, and the film Gone With The Wind was also released. Billie Holiday put out a classic track about Jim Crow racism in the south, "Strange Fruit." Other than that, not much really happened in 1939.

Oh, we almost forgot. The Wizard of Oz came out. It wasn't even the first film or musical version to be adapted from L. Frank Baum's 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and, obviously, it had a lot of big news to compete with. What was so special about Dorothy, Toto, and the inhabitants of Oz that they became unforgettable icons of the 20th century—and objects of cultural interest well into the 21st?

On the Charts

The song was listed at #1 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years…100 Songs" list recognizing important movie songs of the twentieth century.

"Over the Rainbow" was named #1 on the Recording Industry of America and National Endowment for the Arts' 2001 "Songs of the Century" list. Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" was second, and Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" was third.

Garland's version of "Over The Rainbow" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1981.

Garland received a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

In 2005, Yip Harburg was featured on a U.S. postage stamp for his accomplishments as a lyricist.
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