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The Great Performers: Judy Garland

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The Great Performers: Judy Garland

Claim to Fame: Many become famous. Some become legends. But only Judy Garland landed a spot somewhere over the rainbow. She started young (at two years old, her first performance was singing “Jingle Bells”) and quickly became a master of every medium–vaudeville, film, music, radio, television, nightclubs and concert halls.

Why She Matters: In films like The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis and A Star Is Born, Garland proved herself one of the century’s most talented and multifaceted entertainers. She could act, dance, was a gifted comedienne–but more than anything, Garland could sing. Blessed with a voice that could bring down the house or bring on the tears, she unveiled her soul on songs like “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Man That Got Away.”

Postscript: At age 16, Garland was given Benzedrine to tame her adolescent chubbiness, setting off a course of self-destruction that ended her life at 47 of an accidental overdose. Liver disease, nervous breakdowns, multiple marriages, insecurity and stage fright plagued her life and career, assuring her permanent status as one of America’s tragic legends.

The Last Word: Wizard of Oz producer Mervyn LeRoy: “That little girl’s vocal chords are her heartstrings.”

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