a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics

If I Only Had a Brain

Music: Harold Arlen

Lyrics: E. “Yip” Harburg

Vocals: Fish

Original Artist: Ray Bolger (as “The Scarecrow”)

Original Album: Wizard of Oz soundtrack (1938)

Debut: 1989-03-12

Historian: Ellis Godard (lemuria)

Last Update: 2016-03-07

(This history is singable to the tune, as alternative lyrics.)

In the Harburg/Arlen story ’bout midgets and Oz’s glory, it’s a much beloved refrain. But when it features vacuum, it’s such a flatulent tune, and it always sounds the same. I could while away the hours ‘bout versions to devour, and tapes you should obtain. And a list I could be startin’, but Phish is oft just fartin’ “If I Only had a Brain.”

”If I Only Had a Brain” – The Wizard of Oz

Oh, I could tell you why, the Scarecrow sings and cries. I could tell you things the lyrics mean to me – but, please, it’s Fishman being quite silly (singing “Minkin” instead of “Lincoln”). And he often gets the words wrong (e.g. 4/14/89, 5/4/90, and 10/25/94), like Trey with that “Lizards” song, so the vacuum’s good to hear. But there are other acts who have played it with more tact, such as Harry Connick, Jr.

It would be a lot of nothin’, a headache full of fluffin’, overblown for this short tune, to devote much ink to versions that you could go be learnin’, so I’ll just mention these few: the 4/5/90 gets tweakin’, in the year the song was peakin’, and that New Year (12/31/90) had some heat. But another (11/16/95) deserves the big nod, before “Grace” and after “Hood,” and is one of few that’s neat. 

Phish, “Big Ball Jam.” ”HYHU” > “If I Only Had a Brain” – 12/29/93 – New Haven, CT

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