Over the Rainbow

"Over the Rainbow" is a ballad composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg.[1] It was written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and was sung by actress Judy Garland[2] in her starring role as Dorothy Gale.[1] It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and became Garland's signature song.

"Over the Rainbow"
Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow" in The Wizard of Oz
Song by Judy Garland
Published1939 by Leo Feist, Inc.
Composer(s)Harold Arlen
Lyricist(s)E.Y. Harburg

About five minutes into the film, Dorothy sings the song after failing to get Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and the farm hands to listen to her story of an unpleasant incident involving her dog, Toto, and the town spinster, Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). Aunt Em tells her to "find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble". This prompts her to walk off by herself, musing to Toto, "Some place where there isn't any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It's not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It's far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain...", at which point she begins singing.


Composer Harold Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg often worked in tandem, Harburg generally suggesting an idea or title for Arlen to set to music, before Harburg contributed the lyrics.[3] For their work together on The Wizard of Oz, Harburg claimed his inspiration was "a ballad for a little girl who... was in trouble and... wanted to get away from... Kansas. A dry, arid, colorless place. She had never seen anything colorful in her life except the rainbow". Arlen decided the idea needed "a melody with a long broad line".[4]

By the time all the other songs for the film had been written, however, Arlen was feeling the pressure of not having the required song for the Kansas scene. Arlen would often carry blank pieces of music manuscript in his pockets to jot down short melodic ideas. Arlen described how inspiration for the melody to Over the Rainbow came to him suddenly while his wife Anya drove:

“I said to Mrs. Arlen... ‘let’s go to Grauman’s Chinese ... You drive the car, I don’t feel too well right now.’ I wasn’t thinking of work. I wasn’t consciously thinking of work, I just wanted to relax. And as we drove by Schwab’s Drug Store on Sunset I said, ‘Pull over, please.’ ... And we stopped and I really don’t know why —bless the muses— and I took out my little bit of manuscript and put down what you know now as ‘Over the Rainbow.’”[5]

Arlen later wrote the contrasting bridge section based on the idea of 'a child's piano exercise'.[6]

The Wizard of Oz

The "Over the Rainbow" and Kansas scenes were directed by the uncredited King Vidor. The song was 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" and sounded "like something for Jeanette MacDonald, not for a little girl singing in a barnyard". But the song was returned to the film due to the persistence of associate producer Arthur Freed and Roger Edens, who was Judy Garland's vocal coach and mentor.

At the start of the film, part of the song is played by the MGM orchestra over the opening credits. A reprise of it was deleted after being filmed. An additional chorus was to be sung by Dorothy while she was locked in the Witch's castle, helplessly awaiting death as the hourglass ran out. However, although the visual portion of that reprise is presumably lost, the soundtrack of it survives and was included in the 2-CD Deluxe Edition of the film's soundtrack released by Rhino Entertainment in 1995. In that intense rendition, Dorothy cries her way through it, unable to finish, concluding with, "I'm frightened, Auntie Em, I'm frightened!" This phrase was retained in the film and is followed immediately by Aunt Em's brief appearance in the crystal ball, where she is soon replaced by the visage of the witch (Hamilton), mocking and taunting Dorothy before turning toward the camera to cackle. Another instrumental version is played in the underscore in the final scene and over the closing credits.

Recordings by Judy Garland

On October 7, 1938, Judy Garland recorded the song on the MGM soundstage with an arrangement by Murray Cutter. In September 1939, a studio recording of the song, not from the film soundtrack, was recorded and released as a single for Decca. In March 1940, that same recording was included on a Decca 78 four-record studio cast album entitled The Wizard of Oz. Although this isn't the version that appeared in the film, Decca continued to release the "cast album" into the 1960s after it was reissued on disc, a 3313-rpm album.

The film version of "Over the Rainbow" was unavailable to the public until the soundtrack was released by MGM in 1956 to coincide with the television premiere of The Wizard of Oz.[7] The soundtrack version has been re-released several times over the years, including a deluxe edition by Rhino in 1995.[8]

After The Wizard of Oz appeared in 1939, "Over the Rainbow" became Garland's signature song. She performed it for thirty years, singing it as she had for the film. She said she wanted to remain true to the character of Dorothy and to the message of being somewhere over the rainbow.[9]

Other lyrics

An introductory verse ("When all the world is a hopeless jumble...") that was omitted from the film is sometimes used in theatrical productions of The Wizard of Oz and is included in the piano sheet music from the film. It was also used in versions by Tony Bennett, Al Bowlly, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Trisha Yearwood, Melissa Manchester, Hilary Kole, and Norma Waterson. Judy Garland sang the introductory verse only once, on a 1948 radio broadcast of The Louella Parsons Show.[10] Lyrics for a second verse ("Once by a word only lightly spoken...") appeared in the British edition of the sheet music.[11]

Awards and honors

In March 2017, "Over the Rainbow" sung by Judy Garland was entered in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as music that is "culturally, historically, or artistically significant".[12] The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) ranked it number one on their Songs of the Century list. The American Film Institute named it best movie song on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs list.

"Over the Rainbow" was given the Towering Song Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was sung at its dinner on June 12, 2014, by Jackie Evancho.[13] In April 2005, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Yip Harburg that includes a lyric.[14]

It was sent as an audio wakeup call to astronauts about the STS-88 space shuttle mission on Flight Day 4, dedicated to astronaut Robert D. Cabana by his daughter Sara.[15]

Chart activity and sales

"Over the Rainbow" reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot Digital Tracks chart during the week of January 31, 2004 (for the survey week ending January 18, 2004).[16] In the U.S., it was certified Platinum for 1,000,000 downloads sold.[17] As of October 2014 it had sold over 4.2 million digital copies.[18]

In the UK, "Over the Rainbow" was released as a single under the title "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". It entered the UK Official Singles Chart in April 2007 at number 68. In Germany, the single also returned to the German Singles Chart in September 2010. After two weeks on that chart, it received gold status for selling 150,000 copies.[19] In October 2010, it reached number one on the German charts. In 2011 was certified 5x gold for selling over 750,000 copies.[19] It stayed 12 non-consecutive weeks at the top spot and was the most successful single in Germany in 2010.[20] In March 2010 it was the second best-selling download in Germany with digital sales between 500,000 and 600,000.[21][22] In France, it debuted at number four in December 2010 and reached number one.[23] In Switzerland, it received Platinum status for 30,000 copies sold.[24]

"Over the Rainbow" has been used in commercials, films and television programs, including 50 First Dates, Charmed, Cold Case, ER, Finding Forrester, Horizon, Life on Mars, 9, Meet Joe Black, Scrubs, Snakes on a Plane, Son of the Mask, and the television series South Pacific. The Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version was sung by the cast of Glee on the season one finale "Journey" and included on Glee: The Music, Journey to Regionals, charting at number 30 in the UK, 31 in Canada and Ireland, 42 in Australia, and 43 in the U.S.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

International versions

The first German version in the English language was recorded by the Swing Orchestra Heinz Wehner (1908–1945) in March 1940 in Berlin. Wehner, at this time a well-known international German swing artist,[32] also took over the vocals.[33] The first German version in German language was sung by Inge Brandenburg (1929–1999) in 1960.[34]

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World"
Single by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
from the album Facing Future
FormatCD single
LabelMountain Apple Company
Songwriter(s)E.Y. Harburg, Bob Thiele, George David Weiss

On the album Facing Future (1993), Israel Kamakawiwo'ole included "Over the Rainbow" in a ukulele medley with "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. Israel called the recording studio at 3 a.m. He was given 15 minutes to arrive by Milan Bertosa. Bertosa said, "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."[35]

Eva Cassidy version

"Over the Rainbow"
Single by Eva Cassidy
from the album The Other Side/Songbird
ReleasedJanuary 29, 2001 (UK)
FormatCD single
LabelBlix Street
Producer(s)Chris Biondo

Eva Cassidy recorded a version of the song for The Other Side (1992). After her death in 1996, it was included on the posthumous compilation Songbird (1998) and released as a single in 2001. It debuted at number 88 on the UK Singles Chart in February 2001 and climbed to number 42 in May, becoming Cassidy's first single to chart in the United Kingdom. In Scotland, it reached number 36, giving Cassidy her first top-forty single in that region. It was her highest-charting song in the United Kingdom until 2007, when "What a Wonderful World" reached number one.[36] The song also reached number 27 in Ireland in December, becoming her only top-forty hit in that country.

Cassidy's recording was selected by the BBC for its Songs of the Century album in 1999. Her performance at Blues Alley appeared on the album Simply Eva (2011).

Track listings


  1. "Over the Rainbow"
  2. "Dark End of the Street"


Chart (2001) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[37] 27
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[38] 36
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[39] 42
UK Indie (Official Charts Company)[40] 10

Danielle Hope version

"Over the Rainbow"
Single by Danielle Hope
ReleasedMay 23, 2010 (UK)
FormatDigital download, CD single

Danielle Hope, the winner of the BBC talent show Over the Rainbow, released a cover version of the song as a digital download on May 23, 2010 and a single on May 31, 2010.[41] As it was recorded before a winner was announced, runners-up Lauren Samuels and Sophie Evans also recorded versions.[41]

The single was a charity record that raised money for the BBC Performing Arts Fund and Prostate UK.[42]

Track listings

UK digital download

  1. "Over the Rainbow" – 2:58

CD single

  1. "Over the Rainbow"
  2. "The Wizard of Oz medley" – Sophie Evans, Danielle Hope and Lauren Samuels


Chart (2010) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[43] 29

Pentatonix version

"Over the Rainbow"
Song by Pentatonix
from the EP PTX, Vol. IV - Classics
ReleasedApril 7, 2017
FormatDigital download
Producer(s)Ben Bram
PTX, Vol. IV - Classics chronology
"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
(The Andrews Sisters Cover)"
"Over the Rainbow" "Can't Help Falling in Love
(Elvis Presley cover)"

The song was featured on the fifth extended play, PTX, Vol. IV - Classics, by American a capella group Pentatonix. The EP debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 with 54,000 album-equivalent units, of which 50,000 were pure album sales.[44] PTX, Vol. IV, as it is often shortened to, marked the group's final release with bass Avi Kaplan, who departed from the group later the same year. Mezzo-soprano Kirstin Maldonado handles lead vocals on the song.

Ariana Grande version

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
Single by Ariana Grande
ReleasedJune 6, 2017 (2017-06-06)
FormatDigital download
Ariana Grande singles chronology
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
"No Tears Left to Cry"

American singer Ariana Grande released a version of the song on June 6, 2017 to raise money at her benefit concert One Love Manchester after 22 people were killed in the Manchester Arena bombing at Grande's concert on May 22, 2017.[45]

Live performances

Grande sang the single for the first time on TV at the One Love Manchester benefit concert on June 4, 2017.[46][47]

Track listing

Digital download – Live[48]
1."Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Live from Manchester)4:32

Chart performance

Chart (2017) Peak


UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[49] 60

Release history

Region Date Format Label Ref.
Various June 6, 2017 Digital download Republic [48]

Other versions

On albums and singles

On film and television and other media

A jingle version of the song appears in Taito’s 1987 arcade game Rainbow Islands and its computer adaptations.

See also


  1. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 134. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  2. Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York City: Oxford University Press. pp. 328–330. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  3. Shapiro, Gary. "'Over the Rainbow': The Story Behind the Song of the Century". Columbia News. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  4. Frisch, Walter (2017). Arlen and Harburg's Over the Rainbow. Oxford University Press. p. 20.
  5. Alonso, Harriet Hyman (2012). Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist. Wesleyan University Press. p. 106.
  6. Frisch, Walter (2017). Arlen and Harburg's Over the Rainbow. Oxford University Press. p. 22.
  7. "The Wizard of Oz Soundtracks (MGM label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011.
  8. "The Wizard of Oz (Rhino Movie Music label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on January 26, 2012.
  9. Garland, Judy. "The Wizard of Oz (Decca label)". The Judy Room. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007.
  10. Scott Brogan. "Judy Garland MP3's". Thejudyroom.com. Archived from the original on November 16, 2012. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
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  14. May, Patrick (June 8, 2017). "'Over the Rainbow': 10 things to know about classic American song". The Mercury News. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  15. "NASA Human Spaceflight Database - STS-88 Wakeup Calls".
  16. Billboard, page 65 (February 7, 2004).
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  18. Gary Trust (October 21, 2014). "Ask Billboard: The Weird Connections Between Mary Lambert". Billboard. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
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  21. ""Poker Face" knackt 500.000er-Download-Marke - media control". Media-control.de. Retrieved November 22, 2012.
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  30. "The ARIA Report: Week Commencing July 12, 2010" (PDF) (1064). Australian Recording Industry Association. July 12, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
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  32. Dick McBougall, Down Beat 12/1937
  33. Over the Rainbow, Swing-Orchester Heinz Wehner, engl. Refraingesang Heinz Wehner, Telefunken A 10101, Matrizennummer 24836, recorded March 23, 1940
  34. Wenn Du in meinen Träumen (Over the Rainbow), Inge Brandenburg mit dem NDR-Tanzorchester, recorded November 2, 1960
  35. "Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: The Voice Of Hawaii". 50 Great Voices. NPR. December 6, 2010. Retrieved December 16, 2015. 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.
  36. "Eva Cassidy". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
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  44. Caulfield, Keith (April 16, 2017). "The Chainsmokers' 'Memories' Album Debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200 Chart". Billboard. Archived from the original on April 16, 2017. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  45. Reporters, Telegraph (June 7, 2017). "Ariana Grande releases Somewhere Over the Rainbow as charity single for Manchester benefit". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  46. "Ariana Grande resumes Dangerous Woman tour in Paris and says she's thinking of Manchester terror victims 'every step of the way' in poignant Instagram". The Sun. June 7, 2017. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  47. Tanzer, Myles. "Ariana Grande", The Fader, May 30, 2018
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  49. "UK Charts June 22, 2017". auspOp. April 1, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  50. "The Billboard Hot 100 Week of 22 December 2012". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
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  52. Pop Archives. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
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