'Over The Rainbow' Has Been A Classic For 77 Years. Have You Ever Wondered Why?

Tricky, tricky.

As we mark the 77th anniversary of the first recording of "Over the Rainbow" on October 7, the song still remains a staple of our culture.


But did you ever wonder why this 1938 song has remained so fresh in our minds for over a half a century?

Was it because we all found something relatable to Judy Garland and her yearning to get out of Kansas? Perhaps it was because of Toto and the Lollipop Guild?

While those may be good reasons, it turns out that there were also some clever tricks involved that the composers, Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, added to "Over the Rainbow" that makes it feel fresh, new and inspiring every time we hear it.

PBS sat down with composer and musician Rob Kapilow to break down exactly why this song gives us goosebumps whenever we hear it.

Among the techniques the composers used, according to Kapilow, are the "leap" and "circle and yearn."

In the first two notes, we start with an octave leap.

The first note is very low, symbolizing the distress Dorothy feels trapped in Kansas. The very next note jumps way up high, suggesting that something good is on the horizon.

Even the words themselves convey this "leap" in our feelings. Garland starts with a low note on "Some" and then jumps to a higher register as she connects the end of the word with "Where."

This pattern continues, alternating low and high notes in what Kapilow calls "circle and yearn."

Naturally, the song's message about escape and dreaming of another world resonates with many of us, but the producers also crafted it in such a way that the harmony and melody helps evoke this feeling.

Kapilow continues that Arlen and Harburg could have written the song with an up-tempo, cheery melody, but they instead chose to slow it down and make the piano "yearn."

The effect is more sullen and ethereal, thus creating a completely different feeling, one that hits us deep. 

In today's world, we call that "giving us the feels." 

Once they make us all warm and gooey on the inside, they bring back the idea of escapism with a more cheery section, which again works in concert with the words.

The overall theme and message of the song is that we all long for a little adventure but still want to wind up back at home, safe and sound, after it's over.

There's no place like home, after all, and if you haven't broken down in tears at that thought, call your parents immediately.

Watch how it all comes together in the video.

And listen to "Over The Rainbow" for old time sake below!

If you never heard "Iz's" version, definitely listen to that too.

Thus completing your entire cycle of feels for the day. One more time for Toto and Dorothy!


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