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Judy Garland and one of the most astounding vocal performances you will ever hear

Monday 2/26/24

I had said before that Judy Garland was so great that people don't really know how great she was. I've been thinking about doing a book on why she and her art matter so much, but right now I'll share a story and a performance.

It's November 17, 1935, and Judy Garland is to appear on the radio program The Shell Chateau Hour. The host is Wallace Beery.

That evening, Garland learned that her father--the one person she believed was truly in her corner--had been taken to the hospital with spinal meningitis. He had a radio in his room, and Judy knew that he would be listening to her--for what turned out to be the final time, because he died the next day. She never saw him again.

I want you to listen to this. Sit there and really hear it. She sings what would become a staple of her career: "Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart," a number she performed all the way through to her own end, at age forty-seven.

You might be doing some math at this point, and that's right: This person singing this song on this night was all of thirteen-years-old. No one had sung like Judy Garland sang. It wasn't done. She grew to be 4'11". This was not a large person. But this voice was enormous. And here, she was singing to her father. But also all of us.

The moment that most signifies that this was a voice unlike any Americans had ever known occurs at 3:10 and continues to 3:14. Listen to what she does. Who would do that? It's just so free. Daring. Full of life. And that's all she needs: four seconds. One of the truly greatest moments in all of recorded singing.

Don't you feel more alive than you previously did when you hear this?


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