Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Music: Harold Arlen
Lyrics: Edgar Yipsel "Yip"¯ Harburg
Original Artist: Judy Garland
Original Album: Wizard of Oz Soundtrack (1939)
Albums: Live Phish 12
Historian: Ellis Godard (lemuria)
Last Update: 2011-07-19
There's something about the end of the rainbow being hard to find that inhibits some folks from looking for the pot of gold. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is a song about that journey. It comes from the dark side of the cinematic masterpiece (and money maker) The Wizard of Oz, a golden classic – indeed, a classic of any colour you like. But the song has remained elusive (on the run, so to speak) in Phish setlists. When it has appeared, it has often signaled a time to eclipse a damaged jam in the air.
Judy Garland - “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” 1939
The first signs were Trey’s teases during “Wilson” on 3/13/92. This was reportedly inspired by Trey’s early ’92 trip to Provincetown, where he saw a female impersonator culminate her performance as Judy Garland dedicating the song to everyone who had died of AIDS.
The next several appearances were more deliberate and collective. The song's next appearance (out of “Take the ‘A’ Train” on 8/17/92) was a full debut – nearly two-and-a-half minutes – though a calm, melancholy version that recalled that cross-dressing dedication. Stuck on Trey’s brain, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was teased by Trey in the intro to the set-closing “Cavern.”
Saxophonist LeRoi Moore used the song to take control during a lost Fishman vacuum solo on 4/20/94, the band spent nearly a minute on it after a meandering jam in “Reba” on 7/3/94, and Page played the melody a few times on theremin on 8/2/96, 8/5/96, 8/13/96, and 8/14/97 (during the "Merry Pranksters Jam" – perhaps encouraging them to click their heels and head home). After an absence of over a decade, Fish sucked this song back to the Phish stage on 6/17/11, teasing it on vacuum in the intro to “Bike.” In each of these appearances, the song has brought the band back from an arguably dark side, but only faintly so.
Only on 8/9/98 did “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” create a major imprint in the minds of many fans, aided by the emergence of a spectacular full moon behind the lawn. Though certainly no pot of gold, it was quite earnest, appearing in a great gig, joined with “Terrapin Station” on the anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death. Somewhere, Jerry and Judy are singing the lyrics Phish has neglected. Perhaps someday Phish will sing the lyrics for us... and them.