Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Harold Arlen

(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow

First released by The Larry Clinton Orchestra feat. Bea Wain (US #10 1939).
Other hit versions by The Glenn Miller Orchestra (US #1 1939), Judy Garland (US #5 1939), Bob Crosby & His Orchestra (US #2 1939), The Demensions (US #16 1960), Patti LaBelle & The Bluebells (R&B #20 1966), Eva Cassidy (UK #42 2001), Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (US #22 2002).

From the wiki: “‘Over the Rainbow’ (often referred to as ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’) is a classic Academy Award-winning ballad, with music by Harold Arlen (‘Stormy Weather‘, ‘Blues in the Night‘) and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. Arlen came up with the melody while sitting in his car in front of the original Schwab’s Drug Store in Hollywood. Harburg hated it at first because he thought the tempo was too slow. After Arlen consulted with his friend, Ira Gershwin, he sped up the tempo and Harburg came up with the lyrics. A lot of effort went into the first line. Ideas that didn’t make the cut included ‘I’ll go over the rainbow’ and ‘Someday over the rainbow’.

Stormy Weather

First recorded by Ethel Waters (US #1 1933).
Also recorded by Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra (1933), Frances Langford (1933).
Other popular versions by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra (US #1 1933), Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians (US #2 1933), Lena Horne (1941|US #21 1943), Kay Starr (1945), Billie Holiday (1952), Fats Comet (UK #17 1985).

From the wiki: “‘Stormy Weather’ was a 1933 song written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. Ethel Waters first sang it at The Cotton Club night club in Harlem in 1933 as part of The Cotton Club Parade of 1933 where, according to her autobiography, she ‘sang ‘Stormy Weather’ from the depths of the private hell in which I was being crushed and suffocated.’

“When I got out there in the middle of the Cotton Club floor, I was telling things I couldn’t frame in words. I was singing the story of my misery and confusion, of the misunderstandings in my life I couldn’t straighten out, the story of wrongs and outrages done to me by people I had loved and trusted.”

“Leo Reisman’s orchestra version had the biggest hit on records in 1933 (with co-author Arlen himself as vocalist); Waters’ recorded version was also a top-seller. And it was Waters’ recording that would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003, with the Library of Congress additionally honoring the song by adding it in 2004 to the National Recording Registry.

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