MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
June 10th of this year marks what would have been the 100th birthday of one of the greatest icons of the 20th century: Judy Garland. Garland was a star—a singing actor who introduced some of the most beloved songs from the Great American Songbook on film. After many struggles with addiction, she mounted several comebacks, one as an album artist for Capitol Records in the 1950s, and then again as a much celebrated live performer in the 1960s. This hour, I’ll provide an overview of her memorable musical career.
It’s Miss Show Business: Celebrating Judy Garland, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “DIRTY HANDS, DIRTY FACE”
Judy Garland from her 1956 LP titled Judy with a thrilling performance of the Al Jolson song “Dirty Hands, Dirty Face,” a song about the love between a father and son.
MUSIC CLIP - ANDRE PREVIN, “OVER THE RAINBOW”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re celebrating the legend that is Judy Garland.
What more can anyone say about the great Judy Garland? She’s an icon, through and through, a film star, a brilliant song interpreter, and a tragic figure. She was a child desperate to be seen as an adult, and yet forced to become an adult too soon. And then she became an adult who could not escape the shadow of her childhood success, nor the repercussions of her childhood demons. Through her unforgettable role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, she’s the only major pop star of this generation who was introduced to basically all of us in our childhood, so her place in all of our lives holds special meaning.
Yet her life was tragic, short, and painful, and that pain she felt was so evident in her voice and music—which is part of what made her such an incredible artist.
Garland’s career, while cut short at the young age of only 47, is vast, and her connection to the music of the American Songbook is immensely important. She introduced on film some of the most memorable songs in American culture, and created iconic performances in the studio and on stage of countless others.
I’ll barely be able to scratch the surface in an hour, so for our purposes, I want to discuss Judy Garland’s career in three parts: 1) her songs from her MGM film career in the 1930s and 40s, 2) her first comeback as a studio artist in the 1950s, and 3) her pinnacle as a live performer in the 1960s. There are other aspects that I’ll be overlooking—some of the behind-the-scenes Hollywood drama, her television career, etc. But as a singer, this gives us an excellent glimpse at her artistry.
Before we dive into her career as a singing star for MGM, let’s look briefly at a bit of her prehistory.
MUSIC CLIP - HOAGY CARMICHAEL, “JUDY”
Judy Garland was born Frances Gumm on June 10, 1922 in Minnesota. Her parents were vaudevillians, and she and her sisters joined the family business as the three Gumm Sisters. Frances, the youngest, soon became the breakout star for her dynamic energy and her mature singing voice. Her mother had brought them out to Hollywood, where they started performing under the name “The Garland Sisters.” Frances soon adopted the stage name “Judy,” named after a popular Hoagy Carmichael tune.
1935 was the year that Judy, now just 13 years old, got her first big break. In September, she had caught the attention of film producer Louis B. Mayer, who signed her to a contract for MGM. As part of her MGM promotional tour, she was featured on an NBC radio broadcast, and she cut a record with Decca in early 1936. By this point, the swing music craze was sweeping the nation, so she was billed as a 13-year-old swing singer (even though she had just turned fourteen a few days earlier).
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND, “STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY”
The song was “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” and Bob Crosby’s Orchestra was accompanying. You can probably tell that she lacks the rhythmic precision of other swing singers like Ella Fitzgerald, but her maturity, confidence, and charisma are on full display.
Her career, both as a swinging singer and an MGM film star, never quite took off right away. Her next big break came a few years later, when her music director Roger Edens arranged for her to sing a birthday tribute song for MGM megastar Clark Gable at a studio party. Gable, and everyone else at the studio, was charmed by Garland’s sincerity, and soon Garland was landing bigger roles and even got a full recording contract with Decca. Her performance of that song was later featured in the film Broadway Melody Of 1938 and recorded for Decca that year. Let’s hear that song now.
This is a 15-year-old Judy Garland performing “Dear Mr. Gable / You Made Me Love You,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “DEAR MR. GABLE / YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU”
A young Judy Garland in 1937 with her singing and acting chops on full display with “Dear Mr. Gable / You Made Me Love You.”
After the success of this song, Judy Garland found herself billed as the plucky girl next door with big dreams in several MGM films, mostly as the sidekick to the loveable boy next door Andy Hardy, played by fellow MGM child star Mickey Rooney. She was thus a natural fit for the starring role in a new MGM film in the works, an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. Garland starred as Dorothy, a young Kansas girl thrust into a magical world of color and wonder. Her big dreams were summed up beautifully in a new song from songwriters Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg called “Over The Rainbow,” and her iconic performance of it has made it perhaps the most famous film song, possibly the most famous song period from the 20th century. The American Film Institute even named it the top film song from cinema’s first 100 years.
Here is Garland’s Decca recording of that iconic song now, from the original 1939 film soundtrack to The Wizard Of Oz. This is Judy Garland with “Over The Rainbow,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “OVER THE RAINBOW”
Judy Garland in 1939 with the song that made her an icon, Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s “Over The Rainbow,” from the soundtrack to the MGM film The Wizard Of Oz.
The Wizard Of Oz, believe it or not, was not an immediate success for MGM. The studio actually took a loss in the original theatrical run, so Judy Garland’s career really didn’t take off immediately. She kept getting typecast as the innocent girl next door, never the love interest. Her real life was quite the same—she fell hard for clarinetist and bandleader Artie Shaw, who dismissed her advances and eloped with the more glamorous actress Lana Turner. It wasn’t until the 1943 film Girl Crazy, another film co-starring Mickey Rooney, where Garland landed her first romantic role, emerging out of the shadow of the young, naive Dorothy.
Let’s hear a song from that film now, based on the 1930 George and Ira Gershwin musical of the same name. This is Judy Garland with Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “EMBRACEABLE YOU”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “THE BOY NEXT DOOR”
Two songs from two of Judy Garland’s most memorable MGM films. Just now, we heard “The Boy Next Door” by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine from the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis. Before that, Garland with the Gershwin song “Embraceable You” from the 1943 film musical Girl Crazy.
Meet Me In St. Louis kicked off a run of more mature roles for Judy Garland. This was arguably the highest point of her film career, establishing Garland as one of MGM’s most successful musical stars. The next film was The Harvey Girls in 1946, featuring award-winning songs by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer…
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND, “ON THE ATCHISON, TOPEKA AND SANTA FE”
…that was followed by The Pirate in 1948, featuring songs by Cole Porter…
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND AND GENE KELLY, “BE A CLOWN”
… and then her most successful film Easter Parade, also from 1948, featuring songs by Irving Berlin…
MUSIC CLIP - JUDY GARLAND, “EASTER PARADE”
During this stretch however, Garland’s addiction to pills got worse, something that began in her early days as a teenage star for MGM (her reliance on pills was reportedly even enabled by the studio itself). She became more and more unreliable on set, and in 1950, she was dropped from her MGM contract altogether. Her final film was Summer Stock, and in the film she turned out one more memorable performance, despite her struggles. Let’s hear it now.
This is Judy Garland with Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Get Happy,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “GET HAPPY”
Judy Garland in 1950 with Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Get Happy.” That comes from the 1950 MGM film Summer Stock, her last motion picture for the studio before being dropped due to her addiction problems.
MUSIC CLIP - LOU LEVY, “EASTER PARADE”
We’ll explore more of Judy Garland’s life and musical career in just a bit, including a look at her several comebacks. Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - ART TATUM, “JUDY”
MUSIC CLIP - BILL CHARLAP TRIO, “THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring the life and career of the great Judy Garland this hour. June 10th of this year marks what would have been the singer’s 100th birthday.
The 1950s for Judy Garland began at a low point, possibly the lowest point of her career. She had just been released from her MGM contract due to her erratic behavior caused by a drug addiction, and she even tried to take her own life.
Depressed and quickly losing money, she got back out on stage and helped turn her life around. First, she made several appearances on Bing Crosby’s radio program, and that led to several long-term live concert engagements, first at the London Palladium and later at the Palace Theater in New York. The shows were a salute to vaudeville, as well as a retrospective on her own career.
The success of these concert programs opened up even more doors for Garland. She was able to work her way back into Hollywood, landing a starring role in the remake of A Star Is Born, earning her much critical acclaim. She signed a television deal with CBS, hosting several television specials. And she signed to Capitol Records, where she would record for the next decade.
Her first album for the label was called Miss Show Business, released in 1955, and it was largely a recreation of her landmark concert act at the Palace Theater in New York, including old standards from the 1910s and songs that reflected back on her youth as an MGM star. Let’s hear a bit of the opening track from that album. It begins with a choir, inviting the audience to listen to some songs, before Judy comes in with a lovely version of a poignant tune all about the quickly fading joys of youth.
This is Judy Garland with Alec Wilder and Bill Engvick’s “While We’re Young,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “WHILE WE’RE YOUNG”
Judy Garland with the Alec Wilder and Bill Engvick tune “While We’re Young,” a poignant song about youth, especially coming from someone whose youth, spent singing songs, largely defined her adult career. That is the opening track off of her 1955 Capitol LP Miss Show Business, a recreation of her live concert appearances from the early 1950s.
Garland’s next Capitol record was a more traditional pop record from this era, arranged by one of the best in the business, Nelson Riddle. The 1956 album Judy marks one of the high points for Garland’s career in the studio, with marvelous performances of standards like “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “I Feel A Song Coming On,” and “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home.” I’ll play for you now her version of a song that Tony Bennett praised as being “better than anyone else’s.”
This is Judy Garland in 1956 with Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s “Last Night When We Were Young,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “LAST NIGHT WHEN WE WERE YOUNG”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “ZING! WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART”
Judy Garland with two songs arranged by Nelson Riddle. Just now, we heard her in 1958 with a song that was part of her repertoire since 1938 when she sang it in the MGM film Listen, Darling. That was “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart.” That comes from the 1958 album Judy In Love. Before that, we heard her in 1956 from the album simply titled Judy with the song “Last Night When We Were Young.” That song was written for the film Metropolitan back in 1935 by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, although cut from that film. Garland, who had worked with Arlen and Harburg on The Wizard Of Oz, helped revive it when she added it to her early 1950s concert appearances.
Judy Garland recorded seven studio albums in total for Capitol Records, and unfortunately, I won’t have time to discuss all of them. But I do want to sample from two others: one song from her 1957 album titled Alone with arrangements by Gordon Jenkins, and one song from her 1960 album titled That’s Entertainment with arrangements by Jack Marshall and Conrad Salinger.
First up, here is Judy Garland in 1957 with Rodgers and Hart’s “Little Girl Blue”, on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “LITTLE GIRL BLUE”
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “JUST YOU, JUST ME”
A jazzy Judy Garland with “Just You, Just Me,” from her 1960 Capitol LP That’s Entertainment. Before that, a tragic and melancholy Judy Garland from her 1957 LP Alone with “Little Girl Blue.”
While Judy Garland’s career thrived in the early and mid 1950s, she struggled again towards the end of the decade. Now, she was plagued by health issues, including liver failure which left her hospitalized. After draining several quarts of fluid from her body, doctors told her she might not live, and would likely never perform again. That, of course, turned out to be untrue, for her biggest triumph was still to come.
On April 23, 1961, Garland made yet another comeback, this time at Carnegie Hall, the most revered stage in show business. The concert was an undeniable triumph, hailed by critics, lauded by fans, and thankfully, recorded for posterity. The subsequent album Judy At Carnegie Hall hit number 1 on the Billboard charts, and earned Garland four Grammy Awards. We’ll hear a highlight from it in just a moment.
Judy Garland spent the rest of the 1960s performing in more television specials, and in more concert engagements around the world, including with her children, Liza Minelli and Lorna Luft. The highs were mixed with lows—divorce, financial instability, and more drug and alcohol issues. This ultimately led to her demise. In the summer of 1969, less than two weeks after her 47th birthday, Judy Garland died of an accidental overdose, mourned by fans all around the world.
To close off this hour, here she is live at Carnegie Hall in 1961, performing one of the songs she recorded in the 1954 film A Star Is Born. This is Judy Garland with “The Man That Got Away,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - JUDY GARLAND, “THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY”
From her Grammy-award winning album, Judy At Carnegie Hall, that was the great Judy Garland in 1961 with Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin’s “The Man That Got Away.”
And thanks for tuning it to this centennial tribute to the one and only Judy Garland, on Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - BUD SHANK, “OVER THE RAINBOW”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow