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Harold Arlen

Over the Rainbow

A preeminent composer of American popular song, Harold Arlen (1905-1986) began life as Hyman Arluk in Buffalo, New York, but changed his name in 1928, three years after he moved to The Big Apple to play piano for vaudeville acts. He scored his first big hit as a songwriter in 1929 with Get Happy, and didn’t stop until his catalog had over 400 entries and many standards, including Stormy Weather, That Old Black MagicThe Man That Got Away, and, of course, Over the Rainbow.

Despite such stiff competition, Over the Rainbow, from the beloved movie musical The Wizard of Oz (released in 1939), is far and away the best-known and best-loved of his many hit songs—in addition to winning an Oscar® , it tops the Recording Industry of America’s “Songs of the Century” list as well as the American Film Institute's "100 Years, 100 Songs." With lyrics by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (1896-1981), a 16-year-old Judy Garland (1922-1969), starring as the resourceful “Dorothy Gale,” introduced what would become her signature song, and became a show biz legend in the process.

--Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, November 18, 2007 (Bella Voce Cabaret)

I Wonder What Became of Me is from the 1946 musical St. Louis Woman, which Arlen co-wrote with Johnny Mercer (1909-1976). The show, based an the novel God Sends Sunday, by noted Harlem Renaissance writer Arna Bontemps 1902-1973), was criticized for the stereotypical portrayal of its characters, but the songs are regarded as among the very finest that the songwriting pair produced.