April 23 will mark the 50th anniversary of what was probably the greatest evening in show business history. Over 3,000 lucky people packed the world-famous Carnegie Hall in New York City to see Judy Garland. We are lucky enough that this evening was recorded live and complete and has been transforming fans for the last 50 years to front row seats to hear and experience Judy Garland, her charm, charisma, presence and her truly marvelous voice in full form.
New York Herald Tribune reported on that evening this way: “There was an extra bonus at Carnegie Hall last night, Judy Garland sang.” New York Post said: “Last night the magnetism was circulating from the moment she stepped on stage.”
All accounts of that night hailed the Carnegie Hall concert as a triumph.
Variety, the periodical of record for the show business industry, reported: “New York’s Carnegie Hall was supercharged on both sides of the footlights Sunday evening … Pandemonium broke loose and a standing ovation stalled the song fest for several moments. After her twenty-fourth number of the evening, she halted the tumultuous applause demanding still another encore … Few singers around can get as much out of a song as Miss Garland … The tones are clear, the phrasing is meaningful and the vocal passion is catching. In fact, the audience couldn’t resist anything she did. The aisles were jammed during the encore … she followed with two additional numbers ‘After You’ve Gone’ and ‘Chicago’ which brought her song bag for the evening up to 26 numbers.”
“Two hours of pow,” was how Judy Garland described the event.
Clearly Judy’s performance at Carnegie Hall was a milestone in the life and career of a performer who had seen many successes in her lifetime. Judy had already experienced comebacks many times before. Today, 50 years later, people are still raving about this concert, no matter if they have heard it hundreds of times or for the first time. Even those who might not be Judy Garland fans (say it ain’t so) are hooked by this concert. It’s particularly wonderful given the fact that a year-and-a-half earlier Judy Garland had nearly died.
“Judy At Carnegie Hall” remains her biggest selling recording. It originally stayed on the charts for 94 weeks — 13 at number one — and won her five Grammy Awards, including Best Female Vocal Performance and Album of the Year (the first time a woman to win this category). Today it is still in print and a very popular selling CD and music download.
To listen to it is to re-live what truly is the greatest night in show business history sung by the greatest entertainer in show business, Judy Garland. If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and listen. If you have, listen again. You’ll smile, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. You will love it. : :
— A self-described “Friend of Dorothy,” Jim Thompson is a qnotes reader and community member. He lives in Fort Mill, S.C.