‘Over the Rainbow’ Takes Top Spot

There really is gold at the end of the rainbow.

“Over the Rainbow,” the 1939 ballad first sung by the legendary Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz,” earned the top spot on a list of 365 Songs of the Century, according to a poll sponsored by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Others in the top five are “White Christmas,” sung by Bing Crosby; “This Land is Your Land,” from Woody Guthrie; “Respect,” from Aretha Franklin; and Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

The compilation includes memorable music from all decades and genres. Songs from the ’50s and ’60s are frequent favorites, and the list includes a variety of pop, rock, country, jazz, and patriotic tunes. Highlights include “Rapper’s Delight,” by the Sugar Hill Gang at 162, “Yesterday,” by the Beatles at 56, and “Satisfaction,” from the Rolling Stones at 16.

The results were compiled from an industry-wide poll of musicians, critics, industry professionals, officials, and amateur music fans, RIAA spokeswoman Amy Weiss said. “We wanted a broad cross-section of people who cared about music.” Voters selected from a list of 1,100 songs chosen for their popularity and historical significance. While over 1,300 ballots were sent out, only 200 were returned.

The debate over the list has already begun. “These are songs a lot of people would recognize if they were white, middle-class and old,” according to Bob George, director of the Archive of Contemporary Music, a nonprofit popular-music library in New York. He added that all best-of lists were inherently subjective, but more recent pop-music genres such as electronic dance music, punk rock and rap were given short shrift.

The list was released to promote a music-history education program that will be introduced to approximately 10,000 fifth-grade teachers next fall. The curriculum will allow songs to be streamed digitally to school computers by the AOL+School service of AOL Time Warner, Inc.