Why does “Over The Rainbow” make me cry?

I’m sure that like me you have songs that make you cry.

Sometimes this is because of the lyrical content,  the emotion expressed,  the empathy that you feel for a situation that you’ve personally experienced.

Sometimes,  even although the lyrical content doesn’t have any particularly sad connotations,  you end up with a tear in your eye.

The song “Over The Rainbow” often referred to as “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” from the Wizard OF Oz always has that effect on me.

It’s not exactly a sad song,  more about hope,  of being in a sad place and wanting to be somewhere better.

But it always makes me cry,  I dare say that’s why it’s often used at funerals,  it conveys the notion that our loved ones are going somewhere better.

But I’ve listened to it at home,  in a good mood and it really isn’t a sad song,  so I’ve wondered why it still puts a tear in my eye.

I’m sure that you have your songs like that too.

Here’s why I reckon that this song puts a tear in my eye regardless of the lyrical content.

It’s the key changes,  chord progressions and the particular section “some day I’ll wish upon a star  .. ” where the song goes from a G major,  Aminor7, G, Em, Dsuspended,  then ends with a high Dmajor    … at this point the song is soaring,  from its starting G,  to its ending D.

For the next section,  starting at the same G “troubles melt like lemon drops”,   it drops out of key to a lower F#7 chord “ away above the chimney tops”.  then starts going up again  “that’s where” combines a lower Dmajor with a B to make the Bm7 chord,  sad compared with happy D.

The next chord combination if played on its own is FLAT .. it sucks and sounds incongruent and you’d wonder why that’s musical at all .. but it works.

It’s a Bm over a Bflat … just where she sings “you’ll” ..  out of key .. but it really conveys the desperation of the lyric.

Technically,  It’s the harmonics .. or lack of them ..  the B and Bflat notes are at very similar frequencies,  so they don’t go together well  .. but they work in context

Then having lowered its starting point,  we soar again,  passing through the starting point … “find” .. back in key with that Am7

Ending with a high “me”  on the same D chord as the first section ended .. but to get there was a much more difficult journey.

If you start singing the first section and only expect to go from the G,  to the D .. then you won’t be prepared for the second section where you drop to the F#7 then go high again on the second section from G lowered to F#7.  Back in key with the Bm7,  out of key again with the Dm/Bflat .. then soaring through Am and high D.

Add in the double key changes and wow!

That’s what makes the song magical.

Judy Garland and Eva Cassidy sing it  effortlessly … both different and both fantastic in their own way,   but Eva wins it for me.
G                   Am7
Some day I’ll wish upon a star
G                 Em                    Am                      Dsus4  D
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
Bm7                 Bm/Bb   Am    D
That’s where you’ll   find me

I love the song and have recently taught myself to play it on piano and enjoyed learning from its magical composition.

Even sitting at work right now listening to Eva’s version .. gets me every time.



Follow up post with my version of the song



A history of the song,  here .. by a composer and lyricist I’ve never heard of and nowhere near as famous as others composers like Gershwin, Berlin, Rogers and Hart.


On a side note –

That Bflat note,  a component of those two out of key chords F#7 and Bm/Bflat is a difficult to note to sing,    It’s a note with a of strange features in nature.


I was watching tv the other night,  some program on BBC about how animals fall in love.   Years ago,  I think it was Irving Berlin was practicing with his orchestra at New York zoo.    The alligators don’t react to any other note,   but when they hear the vibrations of a low Bflat they go crazy.    The documentary showed that this also happens with alligators in the wild in Africa.

3 thoughts on “Why does “Over The Rainbow” make me cry?

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