1001 Songs Challenge,  1930s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #17: Over the Rainbow (1939)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!


Judy Garland – Over the Rainbow (1939)

Over the Rainbow

” Over the Rainbow” is a ballad composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg. It was written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and was sung by actress Judy Garland in her starring role as Dorothy Gale. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and became Garland’s signature song.

Lyrics (via Genius)
Learn more about this song (via Genius)


Today’s song sees us venture to a farm in Kansas where Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) looks to the skies and bursts into song. It is, of course, one of the opening scenes to The Wizard of Oz (1939) and the song in question is Over the Rainbow. Amazingly, the song was originally removed from the film with concerns that it was too ponderous and slowed down the narrative. Thankfully, it was reinstated and not only bagged an Oscar but has become a legendary song.

In the film, Dorothy has been dismissed by her Aunt and Uncle and wanders alone with her dog, Toto. Having been told to stay out of trouble, Dorothy begins to sing of a distant land beyond the rainbow. It sounds like an idyll where dreams come true and your troubles are forgotten. Dorothy looks to blue birds and laments that they can go beyond the rainbow yet she cannot. Of course, Dorothy will soon find herself in another world far from Kansas but that’s another story. 

It’s hard to imagine that this song almost didn’t appear in The Wizard of Oz. It’s almost as well known as the yellow brick road and Dorothy’s companions that accompany her on the way to the Emerald City. It remains a memorable song to this day and is strongly associated with Garland who was a mere 17 when the film was released. Sadly, she endured a difficult life with drugs and alcohol, failed marriages, the unnecessary pressure that came with fame and died at the age of 47. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Judy Garland as Dorothy and it’s equally hard to imagine anyone else singing this song.


Favourite song so far:

Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit (1939)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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