Remembering Judy Garland’s legendary live concert at Carnegie Hall, fifth years ago

Judy Garland in 1961 on stage at Carnegie Hall (photo courtesy of Carnegie Hall)

April 23rd, 1961 Judy Garland performed live at Carnegie Hall in New York, her best live performance, which was recorded to become a legendary music album, which brought her 5 Grammy Awards and a top spot in U.S. charts for 13 weeks in a row. Judy Garland’s unmatched performance at Carnegie Hall has been a night to remember for the audience of over 3.000 people who fell in love with her indefinitely, but also for anyone listening and watching her today, half a century later. Some of those who attended her concert recalled they had been so captivated and mesmerized that they felt numb and breathless, some calling it a ”state of gravity” which prevented them from remembering what songs she sang or what she was wearing. Many of those present spoke about the audience’s tangible love for her and some even felt as they were lovers.

Garland signed her first record contract with Capital Records in 1955, yet her music did not sell, her image at the time being of an unreliable actress which had been sacked by MGM Studios in 1950, after several instances when she failed to show up on a movie set. Her emotional instability gave her an incredible stage fright, in an interview she said ”All I wanted was eat and hide…”. From the frail character in The Wizard of Oz and Meet me in St Louis, she would become overweight and abuse pills and alcohol, leading to her near death instance in 1959 when she was admitted in a hospital in New York, doctors fearing she would not make it. Miraculously, she recovered and she was re-born not only physically but also from the point of view of her career.

After her 1961 performance at Carnegie Hall in New York she toured extensively and in 1962 she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Judgement at Nuremberg movie. In 1962 she also recorded a special show with Frank Sinatra for CBS and in 1963 she sang along 17 year old Liza Minelli in a tv show, their performance of ”Let Me Entertain You” becoming a golden moment of television history. In November 1964, Garland performed with Liza Minelli, live, at London Palladium, giving a unique performance to be remembered.

One year later, in 1965 she divorced Sid Luft, a wannabe manager, who not only drained her financially but was later blamed for never caring for her. In March 1969, two years into her marriage with her fifth husband, she was quoted in a media interview ”For the first time in my life, I am happy !” then soon after her 47th birthday in less than three months, she was found dead in her London apartment after an overdose of barbiturates.

Oliver Petcu