Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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(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), Cliff Richard (UK #11 2001), Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1993; released US #22 2002 |UK #68 2007 |GER #1 2010).

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’.

“‘Over the Rainbow’ was almost cut from The Wizard of Oz. The song was initially deleted from the film after a preview in San Luis Obispo, because MGM chief executive Louis B. Mayer and producer Mervyn LeRoy thought it ‘slowed down the picture’ (it is first sung just 5-minutes into the movie) and that ‘the song sounds like something for Jeanette MacDonald, not for a little girl singing in a barnyard.’ However, the persistence of associate producer Arthur Freed and Garland’s vocal coach/mentor Roger Edens to keep the song in the picture eventually paid off.

“In addition to winning the 1939 Academy Award for Best Song, ‘Over the Rainbow’ is ranked #1 on the Songs of the Century list compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. The American Film Institute also ranks ‘Over the Rainbow’ as the greatest movie song of all time on the list of AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs.

Recording History

“Judy Garland first performed the song on the MGM soundstages in October 1938, using an arrangement by Murray Cutter. A studio recording of the song – not from the actual film soundtrack – was recorded and released as a single by Decca Records in September 1939 upon release of The Wizard of Oz.

“But, prior to that release, The Larry Clinton Orchestra covered ‘Over the Rainbow’ in a December 1938 recording session for Victor Records featuring vocalist Bea Wain. That version charted Top 10 in the Hit Parade in early 1939, months prior to the release of the movie in August 1939. The Glenn Miller Orchestra follow-up with a #1 hit cover that spent 15 weeks on the 1939 Hit Parade. A cover by the Bob Crosby Orchestra cover spent 8 weeks on the Hit Parade and peaking at #2. Judy Garland’s original recording was also commercially released, peaking at #5.

“Covers of ‘Over the Rainbow’ continued to be made for decades after. Two covers charted in the 1960s – the Demensions’ in 1960, and Patti LaBelle & the Bluebells in 1966. In 2001, Eva Cassidy’s recording charted in the UK while Cliff Richard’s medley of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World’ charted Top-10 in the UK the same year.

“In 1993, Israel ‘Iz’ Kamakawiwoʻole included ‘Over the Rainbow’ in a ukulele medley with Louis Armstrong’ ‘What a Wonderful World’. Kamakawiwoʻole called ae recording studio at 3 a.m. He was given 15 minutes to arrive by the owner, Milan Bertosa. Bertosa recalls, ‘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.’

“Released as a single in 2002 on the posthumous album Alone in IZ World (2001), Iz’s arrangement charted in the U.S., peaking at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and by 2004, #1 on the Hot Digital Tracks. It would go on to become the longest-leading number-one hit on any of the Billboard song charts, spending 358 weeks on top of the World Digital Songs chart.”

The Glenn Miller Orchestra, “Over the Rainbow” (1939):

Judy Garland, “Over the Rainbow” (1939):

Bob Crosby & His Orchestra, “Over the Rainbow” (1939):

The Demensions, “Over the Rainbow” (1960):

Patti LaBelle & The Bluebells (1966):

Eva Cassidy, “Over the Rainbow” live performance (2001):

Cliff Richard, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” (2001):

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (2002):

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