Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Judy Garland

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

First performed (in Meet Me in St. Louis) by Judy Garland (1944).
Popular recorded versions Judy Garland (1944), by Frank Sinatra (1957), Barbra Streisand (1967), The Pretenders (1987), Sam Smith (2014).

From the wiki: “‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, was introduced by Judy Garland in a poignant moment in the 1944 movie musical Meet Me In St. Louis. When presented with the original draft lyric, Garland, her co-star Tom Drake and director Vincente Minnelli criticized the song as depressing, and asked Martin to change the lyrics. Though he initially resisted, Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat, e.g. the lines ‘It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past’ became ‘Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight’. Garland’s version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.

“In 1957, Frank Sinatra asked Martin to revise the line ‘Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.’ He told Martin, ‘The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?’ Martin’s new line was ‘Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.’ Martin made several other alterations, changing the song’s focus to a celebration of present happiness, rather than anticipation of a better future. On The Judy Garland Show Christmas Special, in 1963, Garland sang the song to her children Joey and Lorna Luft with Sinatra’s alternate lyrics.

(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow

First released by The Larry Clinton Orchestra & 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’.

Singin’ in the Rain

First performed and recorded by Ukulele Ike (1929).
Also performed by Judy Garland (1940).
Most familiar version performed by Gene Kelly (1952).

From the wiki: “‘Singin’ In the Rain’ is a song with lyrics by Arthur Freed and music by Nacio Herb Brown, published in 1929. However, it is unclear exactly when the song was written; it has been claimed that the song was performed as early as 1927.

“We do know it was first performed by Doris Eaton Travis in the 1929 revue The Hollywood Music Box Revue. The song became a hit and was recorded on disc by a number of artists, first and most notably Ukulele Ike (Cliff Edwards) who would also perform the number on-screen with the Brox Sisters in the early MGM musical The Hollywood Revue of 1929. The song was recorded by Annette Hanshaw in her album Volume 6, and on film by Jimmy Durante in Speak Easily (1932), and by Judy Garland in Little Nellie Kelly (1940).”

Maggie May (The Beatles)

Originally recorded by The Vipers Skiffle Group (1957).
Also recorded by Judy Garland (1964), and The Beatles (1969).

From the wiki: “Banned by BBC Radio on its release because of the sexual content of the lyrics, ‘Maggie May’ (also known as ‘Maggie Mae’) is a traditional Liverpool folk song about a prostitute who robbed a ‘homeward bounder’: a sailor coming home from a round-trip. The song specifies several real streets in Liverpool, notably Lime Street in the center of the town.

Blues in the Night

First recorded Artie Shaw (US #10 1941).
Also recorded by Judy Garland (1941), Chicago (1995).
Other hit versions by Woody Herman & His Orchestra (US #1 1941), Dinah Shore (US #4 1942), Cab Calloway (US #8 1942), Rosemary Clooney (US #29 1952).

From the wiki: “The song was first performed by William Gillespie, in the movie Blues In The Night, and nominated for an Academy Award. Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer wrote the entire score for Blues in the Night. When they finished writing ‘Blues in the Night’, Mercer called a friend, singer Margaret Whiting, and asked if they could come over and play it for her. She suggested they come later because she had dinner guests — Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Mel Tormé, and Martha Raye. Instead, Arlen and Mercer went right over. Margaret Whiting remembered what happened then:

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