New York, NY- May 13, 2014 – The Songwriters Hall of Fame announced today that the 2014 Towering Song Award will be presented to “Over the Rainbow” at the 45th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner slated for Thursday, June 12th at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. The song, written by Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg, and published by EMI Feist Catalog, Inc., is now celebrating its 75th year.
The Towering Song Award honors an individual song that has influenced our culture in a unique way over many years. Previous Towering Songs have included “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” “Moon River,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “It Was A Very Good Year,” “Stand By Me” and “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
“Over the Rainbow” was written for the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, and was sung by actress Judy Garland in her starring role. With music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, the classic Academy Award-winning ballad has received numerous historic honors and accolades over the past 75 years, and continues to resonate as one of the most important songs in popular music history.
The song has been named number one 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 ranked “Over the Rainbow” the greatest movie song of all time on the list of “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs.” It was adopted in World War II by American troops in Europe as a symbol of the United States.
Judy Garland first recorded “Over the Rainbow” on the MGM soundstages on October 7, 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 of 1939. In March of 1940, that same recording was included on a Decca four-record studio cast album entitled The Wizard of Oz. Although this is not the version of the song featured in the film, Decca would continue to re-release the so-called “Cast Album” well into the 1960s. An introductory verse that was not used in the movie is often used in theatrical productions of The Wizard of Oz and is included in the piano sheet music book of songs from the film. Garland herself sang the introductory verse only once, on a 1948 radio broadcast of The Louella Parsons Show.
It was not until 1956, when MGM released the true soundtrack album from The Wizard of Oz that the film version of the song was made available to the public. The 1956 soundtrack release was timed to coincide with the television premiere of the movie. The soundtrack version has been re-released several times over the years, including in a “Deluxe Edition” from Rhino Records in 1995.
Following the film’s release in 1939, “Over the Rainbow” became Garland’s signature song and she would perform it for the next thirty years, until her death in 1969. Garland performed the song without altering it, singing exactly as she did for the movie. She explained her fidelity by saying that she was staying true to the character of Dorothy and to the message of really being somewhere over the rainbow. In a letter to Harold Arlen, Garland wrote, “‘Over the Rainbow’ has become part of my life. It’s so symbolic of everybody’s dreams and wishes that I’m sure that’s why some people get tears in their eyes when they hear it. I’ve sung it thousands of times and it’s still the song that’s closest to my heart.”
“Over the Rainbow” has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Glenn Miller, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, Bobby McFerrin, Jerry Lee Lewis and Katharine McPhee among many others. The song was most recently performed by Pink at this year’s Academy Awards.
Inductees at this year’s event include Ray Davies, Donovan, Graham Gouldman, Mark James and Jim Weatherly. The prestigious Johnny Mercer Award will be presented to Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Doug Morris will be honored with the Hitmaker Award and Dan Reynolds (of Imagine Dragons) will receive the Hal David Starlight Award. Del Bryant will be presented with the Visionary Leadership Award.