Today’s Song of the Day Challenge is “A song you wish you could witness live”, and my pick is “The Man That Got Away” by Judy Garland. Specifically, it’s her performance of the classic torch song at her legendary concert at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961, which many called “the greatest night in show business history”. Truth be told, I would like to have seen her perform any one of a number of her iconic songs at that show, but choose “The Man That Got Away” because of the incredible sense of vulnerability and heartbreak she conveys in her powerfully raw performance that really tears me up. By 1961, Garland had endured many difficulties, heartaches and setbacks in her life and career, and this show was a personal and professional triumph for her.
Judy Garland had a deep and resonant vocal style in the contralto range, characterized by a tremulous, powerful vibralto. Her voice was unparalleled, and in my opinion, she was one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th Century. In a piece he wrote for Turner Classic Movies, biographer Jonathan Riggs commented that Garland had a tendency to imbue her vocals with a seemingly contradictory combination of fragility and resilience that eventually became a signature trademark of hers. “Those who saw her perform live spoke of the experience in almost mystical terms, especially a comeback performance captured on the Grammy-winning Judy at Carnegie Hall, widely considered the greatest night in show business history. Literally giving her life for her art, Garland poured her soul out in every song, achieving immortality of the highest order and recognition as one of the greatest entertainers of all time.”
The recording from that show, which featured a full orchestra conducted by Mort Lindsey, was released as a two-record album Judy at Carnegie Hall in July 1961. The album became a best seller, spending 73 weeks on the Billboard album chart, 13 of them at #1. It won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Best Female Vocal Performance, Best Engineered Album, and Best Album Cover, and has never gone out of print since its release 59 years ago! In 2003, it was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. (Wikipedia)
Here’s a famous scene from the 1954 version of A Star is Born where an awestruck Norman Maine, played by James Mason, watches Judy as Esther Blodgett perform the song at an after-hours club: