My guy's out. The above is for John and his lovely wife Elizabeth. Thank you, God bless you.
Above is the classic version, with Judy Garland. It was written for her, by Harold Arlen. It also became, along with White Christmas, one of the signature tunes Americans sang during World War II. So there's that connection.
But there's more. A lot more.
The Wizard of Oz was written as an answer to European stories like Alice in Wonderland. Frank Baum wanted a purely American fairy story, and it was so popular at the turn of the century that it begat a whole series of Oz adventures, and product tie-ins. So the song is deeply rooted in American myth, business and history.
But there's more.
There's E.Y. Harburg's lyric, which sounds like it's about heaven but can easily be seen as being about America, or our dream of it, the dream stolen by the Bush Junta.
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true
If that isn't the immigrant dream of America I don't know what is. Pushing a song whose lyric is an immigrant's dream makes a wonderful contrast to the Republican bashing of immigrants. A song about idealism is a great contrast to the Republican drumbeat for constant war. That, right there, is your difference between hope and fear. Jesse Jackson will like it, too, with its literary allusion to his Rainbow Coalition, and its call to rise even higher than that.
But there's more.
The protagonist of the Wizard of Oz story, Dorothy Gale, is from Kansas. So was Stanley Ann Dunham, Barack Obama's mother.
But there's more.
For those who have never gotten over Garland (and who has) it turns out Over the Rainbow is one of the most adaptable songs in the American songbook. It lends itself to all sorts of artistic interpretations. Which makes it a lot more unifying than, say, the Clinton's Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow, by Fleetwood Mac.
Have you ever heard Woody Nelson's version? One of the great cowboy laments, full of sorrow over roads not taken. Or how about Sarah Vaughan's version, a beautiful blues number, darker than chicory coffee and heart-breaking. If folk's more your speed, here is Tommy Emmanuel, equally beautiful and totally different.
Then there is my favorite version, the modern version, which tells a special truth about the candidate involved.
He's Hawaiian. Not by birth, but by the grace of God. Barack Obama was raised in Hawaii, with an Indonesian half-sister and his white mother. There are few places in our great nation where such a trio would not turn heads, once you knew their story, but in Hawaii they got by. And for a time young Barack was raised there by his grandparents -- that's his grandfather's chin at the bottom of his long face.
Another thing you may not know about this version. It was recorded by Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole as a memorial tribute to a musician and friend, Gabby Pahinui. Iz himself passed away in 1997, from complications owing to overweight, and wasn't that a great tragedy for us all? His passing reminds us again that this is, also, a song about heaven, and therefore a religious song.
You've heard the beginning of this version in all sorts of commercials, on TV, and in film, but many versions cut out before you even get to the lyric. And almost all of them cut out before Iz segues into "What a Wonderful World." If that doesn't melt your heart you don't have one -- vote for McCain and be done with 'ya.