Here we have one of the greatest singers of the last half century singing the greatest standard in the American Songbook. Cassidy takes some mild liberties with phrasing and melody. Given how indelible the original melody is, her personalized take is at first a touch disorienting. But as she proceeds, her interpretation feels more than right, and the essence of the song feels honored. For a more straightforward reading, I like Ella's version from her "Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook" recording. Partisans of other great singers will prefer other versions, including those by Judy Garland, who introduced the song in The Wizard of Oz. We all can agree, however, that Cassidy's performance is one of exceeding beauty. There is nothing like a pure distillation of yearning and aspiration, so well conveyed by Arlen's majestic melody, to give a song the legs needed to thrive over the long haul. And there is nothing like Cassidy's soulfulness to revivify us as we face another day in Trump's America. No, we, who love beauty, shall not be vanquished!
As if to prove my point about the timelessness of this song, Ariana Grande performed Over the Rainbow at the One Love benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester bombing. And it really worked. It was profound, gorgeous, moving.