I love Judy Garland.
There is just something about her voice that completely entrances me every time I hear one of her recordings. She is one of the greatest vocalists and entertainers our world will ever see and in my opinion, she is the best.
Most people know Garland from her career defining role in The Wizard of Oz. She filmed this movie for MGM studios when she was a mere 16. This role catapulted her into super stardom and her signature song “Over The Rainbow,” sung by a kid willing to dream, was cemented in the hearts of every American. She would go on to make countless classics for MGM including Meet Me in St. Louis, The Harvey Girls, and Easter Parade.
Although that is not where my fascination with this vocal legend started. I am a fan of her later years in show business, mainly from 1951-1969, the year she died. Throughout these years she was less known for the movies she made, but for her live performances. She did make some amazing films during this period like A Star is Born, but they were few and far between compared to her days at MGM.
When I was in elementary school I watched the Judy Garland Christmas Special on TV, but it wasn’t until my middle school years that my mom bought me the CD Judy At The Palace. I was immediately hooked from her rousing renditions of “Rock a Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” and “Get Happy.” Then there was her encore encore of “Over The Rainbow.” Hook. Line. Sinker. I have collected every Garland vinyl since then.
So I have decided to compile some of my favorite Garland performances and bring them to you here. Some are cliché of most Garland fans, but some are rarities that I hope you will surprisingly enjoy.
“Down With Love”
This is a recent favorite of mine. Her catalog is so large and her recordings seem endless. She did this on her ill-fated variety show. It’s a good “screw you” to all the men that had mistreated her throughout her life, not to mention CBS’ treatment of her during filming.
“When You’re Smiling”
Garland opened her legendary concert at Carnegie Hall with this number in 1961. This live album, Judy At Carnegie Hall, is her most legendary album, which is an ode to the brilliance of her performances. Since there isn’t a video recording of this concert I leave you with this version. She often opened shows with the this joyous number and it shows off her comedic chops.
Garland’s version of “By Myself” is superb compared to everyone elses’. She feels each note with consistent emotion and the ambition to move forward with life. This is another song she sang from personal experience. Her performance is pure perfection. It is sad that CBS cut this number from one of her shows because they thought it was too dark.
“What Now My Love”
Garland’s vocals nearly blew me out of the window when I first heard her rendition of this classic. She first approaches it with a veil of vulnerability, but ends with a shroud of confidence. The closing note of the song gives me chills.
“As Long as He Needs Me”
This song has been a long time favorite of mine. I have heard it sung by many different ladies and I haven’t found a version I didn’t like yet. There is something different about Garland’s approach though. Her rendition shows a different side of Garland. We’ve seen the bitter and empowered Garland through her song choices. Her raw emotion in this song portrays her desire to be loved and to not be seen as a commodity. She didn’t want to need someone. She wanted to be needed.
Every time I unearth a new Garland recording, or hell, every time I listen to Garland I am always amazed. There are no words that describe my admiration for this amazing lady and how her vocals penetrate directly to my soul. We all have that one artist and for me it will always be Judy Garland.
These performances are just barely a peek into her extraordinary career. I am so thankful that we have all these performances from her variety show. These performances are some of the last glimpses we have of this legend and sadly they are her last great recorded works.
As I come to a close I would like to remember Judy Garland in this form. I have read books and watched documentaries on Garland’s life and they always focus on her troubles. I think this is unfair. Garland lived a magnificent life doing what she loved to do: entertain. Through her gift she continues to touch thousands of lives and through this gift she paved the way for modern entertainment.
I’m simply wrapped in Garland.
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