*(Somewhere) Over The Rainbow

By: Harold Arlen and Edgar Harburg
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to
Really do come true.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?
Harold was born in Buffalo, New York in 1905. He was a part of the band, The Southbound Shufflers
during his youth and young adult years where he was a pianist, arranger and singer. Harold was
noticed first by Broadway composer, Vincent Youmans, and was given his first part in the “Great Day”
performance as a pianist in 1929. His first song, “Get Happy” was composed along with fellow
composer Ted Koehler and made a hit by Ruth Etting in 1930. From 1930-1934, Arlen wrote music
for various Broadway musicals. After moving to Hollywood, he and his new friend, Johnny Mercer,
wrote Academy Award Nominee, “That Old Black Magic”. Harold married Anya Taranda January 8th,
In 1939, Harold was hired by the producers of TheWizard of Oz to write the music for his
biggest movie theater in Los Angles. He wrote the music that night and turned it in to his writing
partner, E.Y. Harburg, who added lyrics to the piece. Judy Garland sang “Over the Rainbow” as her
signature song, making it a huge hit. Arlen continued writing many, many hit songs for Broadway
shows and film productions until his death on April 23, 1986 from Parkinson’s disease.(Gale
Biography Resource Center)
Harold Arlen: Homepage
Edgar Yipsel “Yip” Harburg was born in New York, New York in 1896. His middle name,Yipsel, is the
Yiddish name meaning squirrel that was given to him since he was a very active child. As a child, Edgar
went to theater plays and musicals in both Yiddish and English. After graduating in 1917, he got a job at a
meatpacking company in Uruguay to avoid having to be drafted in the World War I. Edgar married Alice
Richmond in 1923 but divorced in 1929, the same year Edgar lost most of his money in the Stock
Market Crash. The Great Depression gave Harburg a lot of time to think about writing and from 19291934 Edgar had the opportunity to work with over 30 composers. One of his biggest achievements was
the composing of “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime” with Jay Gorney in 1932.
The composing of “Over The Rainbow” came from Harburg’s desire to create a show with
writing lyrics and music, putting them together. So Harburg, writing the lyrics, composed the Academy
Award-Winning song, “Over The Rainbow” with the music by Harold Arlen. Edgar also wrote all of the
lyrics to the rest of the songs from the production of TheWizard of Oz. It was Harburg’s idea to create the
seamless integration between the songs and stories that makes the film seem so magical. He also entirely
created the idea of a rainbow in the background of the Aunt Em and Dorothy scene where she sings the
song. After a life full of writing many famous pieces, Edgar Harburg was killed of a heart attack in 1981.
(Gale Biography Resource Center)
E.Y. Harburg: Homepage
An anaphora is a literary device that is the repeating
of the same word at the beginning of a phrase, stanza
or lyric. It comes from the Greek word meaning
carrying up or back.
The repetition can be a whole line or just one word,
like “somewhere”, from this song. (Poets.org)
For information on how anaphoras
were derived from the Catholic
religion, click here.
The “land” that is said in the song refers to
what the soldiers over in the World War II
thought of the United States of America. The
soldiers adopted “Somewhere Over The
Rainbow” as a symbol of the United States in
time of war and depression. The sign gave a
sign of hope and perseverance to the
soldiers who were risking their lives fighting in
the war. (Barnet, Nemerov, and Taylor p.
During the World War II, men had to leave their wives and
children behind in the United States and go off to war in
Europe. The lullaby signified in the song could be relating to
the fact that the women had to stay home and sing lullabies to
the children while the men went off to be brave and fight in
the war.
Interested in reading a
real Great Depression
lullaby sung by
Woodie Guthrie? Click
The movie TheWizard of Oz was
produced in 1939 by directed by
Victor Fleming. The music won many
awards throughout the years that the
film was first open but was beaten
out by GoneWith TheWind for Best
Picture. The movie did, however, win
the Best Song award for “Over The
Rainbow”. It is ironic because
originally, producers wanted to cut
out “Over the Rainbow” thinking it
would not fit in with the other fast
and cheery songs of the film. (Barnet,
Nemerov, and Taylor p. 100-101and
The phrase “skies are blue” could
refer to one of the colors of the
United States, which was a hopeful
sign to the soldiers during the war.
The phrase could also be describing
the ‘heaven’ or ‘refuge’ that is over
the rainbow Harburg and Arlen are
referring to. It would probably be a
place where the skies are clear and
there are no troubles like there are in
the present day time.
An alliteration is a literary device that uses the
same letter as the beginning of the word in a
single line as repetition. Articles and words can
be used throughout the line, but most of the
words are beginning with the same letter. “Sally
sells sea shells at the seashore” is an example of
an alliteration.
These few words showed hope to the soldiers
fighting in the war and of those who survived the
Great Depression after the war. People looked
to this song optimistically as they did to Franklin
Delano Roosevelt’s new idea, the New Deal.
People were able to get through the day and
know that they would make it through.
For more information on
president Franklin Roosevelt,
click here.
A simile is a literary device using like
or as. From the lyrics, “troubles” are
being described to melt LIKE lemon
drops, thus using the word like so
the whole line is considered a simile.
This is just a beautiful and amazing
line where you can imagine the
candies melting away like the way it
feels when a burden is being lifted.
A personification is a literary device that gives
human actions to things that are unliving or
unable to perform the actions. In the lyrics,
“troubles” are being described as melting, which is
an action that “troubles” could not usually
perform. ‘Troubles melting’ could also refer to
the feeling of a heavy burden is done with and
The phrase ‘fly beyond the rainbow’ could be
referring to the land or whole other world/heaven
the entire song is about. The word ‘fly’ could refer
to escaping either out of the pain of the war or of
just loneliness. Just the idea of there possibly being a
special place beyond the rainbow probably gave
many people the hope they needed to get through
the war.
For more
The Great Depression started off with the Stock Market Crash
in 1929 and was a terrible time of hunger and poverty
before the World War II. A lot of people were out of jobs and
having to live on the street. Many businesses failed
everyday, thus putting more people out of work on a daily
basis. Everybody needed money and a job and there just
weren’t enough to go around to the whole United States.
President Hoover tried his best to keep the spirits of the
American people high and not negative however he had
underestimated the harshness of the crisis. He also did not
believe that the U.S. government should help the
unemployed or provide food, so more people were starving
and unemployed. The end of his term was rejoiced since
Hoover had been insensitive and uncaring to the American
The new president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
came up with a plan called the New Deal, which was
different economic systems that were set up to try to fix the
problems and issues that Hoover left unattended. Starvation
and homelessness were some of the worst problems of the
Great Depression. Soup kitchens and homeless shelters were
set up to try to help the unfortunate people of the United
States. After many long years of depression and hurt, the
Great Depression was finally finished in the early 1940s.

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