Kurt's Historic Sites

Harold Arlen

Harold Arlen

Interment LocationVisited 
Hartsdale, NYJuly 3, 2022 

Photographed July 3, 2022.

♪ Someday you’ll wish upon a star

♪ And wake up in Ferncliff’s “Hickory” lawn

♪ The composer of a famous song 

♪ To which you’ll want to sing along

♪ That’s where you’ll find him

If you deciphered my poor adaptation of song lyrics in the previous caption, you know that Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, is the final resting place of Harold Arlen, who crafted the musical notes of one of the best-recognized and most-celebrated songs of the twentieth century. Partnered with lyricist Yip Harburg, Arlen won an Academy Award in 1940 for the trademark song from MGM’s The Wizard of Oz: “Over the Rainbow.” In 2004, the American Film Institute anointed “Over the Rainbow” as the greatest movie song of all time. Arlen and Harburg also co-wrote Oz‘s other songs, such as “If I Only Had a Brain” “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” Arlen’s well-known compositions outside the Oz catalog include “Stormy Weather,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” and “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” In addition to Harburg, his collaborators included Ira Gershwin, Leo Robin, Johnny Mercer, Ted Koehler, and Truman Capote.

Photographed July 3, 2022.
Photographed July 3, 2022.

Arlen is buried in Ferncliff’s Hickory section and shares a flat marker with his wife, Anya. From 1969 until her exhumation in 2017, Ferncliff likewise sheltered the remains of actress Judy Garland, who brought Arlen’s work to life in both The Wizard of Oz and A Star is Born. Garland now rests 2,500 miles west, in Hollywood.

Fast Facts

Born: February 15, 1905 in Buffalo, New York

Spouse: Anya Taranda Arlen (m. 1937-1970)

Academy Award: Best Original Song (1940)

Died: April 23, 1986 in New York, New York

Cause of Death: Cancer

Age: 81

Interment: Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York

"Music doesn't argue, discuss, or quarrel. It just breathes the air of freedom."
- Harold Arlen

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Folkart, Burt A. “Arlen Dies; Composer of ‘Over the Rainbow.'” Los Angeles Times. April 24, 1986. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-04-24-mn-1870-story.html.

Lahr, John. “Come Rain or Come Shine.” New Yorker. September 11, 2005. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/09/19/come-rain-or-come-shine.

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