You’ll Never Hear “Over the Rainbow” the Same Way Again – The Song Breakdown Everyone Should Watch

News   You’ll Never Hear “Over the Rainbow” the Same Way Again – The Song Breakdown Everyone Should Watch
 
The MGM classic The Wizard of Oz premiered August 25, 1939.
Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.
Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. 1939 Warner Home Video

On Oct. 7, 1938, Judy Garland stepped onto an MGM soundstage to record the Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg classic “Over the Rainbow” for the enduring film The Wizard of Oz.

Last year, PBS News Hour anchor Jeffrey Brown sat down with composer Rob Kapilow at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, to find out “what makes the song ‘Over the Rainbow’ an indelible classic?”

We revisit the video in honor of the 77th anniversary release of The Wizard of Oz.

Kapilow goes in depth to explore the emotions and subtext behind the music that help “explain why we love the story of a girl caught yearning for both home and adventure.”

He explains, “We start off with this big leap. This is a full octave leap. That's a big leap for a popular song. In fact, producers were worried that nobody would buy the song because it would be too hard to sing this opening leap.

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“Now, this leap isn’t just a big leap musically. It’s a leap between two different worlds and two parts of the voice. The first note is kind of low down there in chest voice. It’s Dorothy’s troubled reality. It’s Kansas, aridity, no flowers. It’s the black and white of the beginning of the film.

“So, this is Kansas. The upper note, it is more ethereal. It’s like — it’s where she wants to escape to. It’s Oz. It’s over the rainbow.

So, these two notes, Kansas and Oz, are going to turn out to be the key to the whole song, but you won’t get their final meaning until the last notes of the song.”

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