If you go by how often it comes into my mind, my favorite song is “If I Only Had a Brain.” It haunts me so much that I broke down and taught it to myself — first on piano and then on guitar. It’s a pretty song with clever lyrics.
The performance in The Wizard of Oz isn’t that great, however. Of course, I’ve never been a big fan of the film. As a kid, I did not enjoy watching it each year. The witch terrified me and the wizard annoyed me. (Why was the witch real but the wizard a fake?!) And I really didn’t like that whole “it was only a dream” ending. But I did like that dog!
While researching this article, I came upon a very nice version of the song by an Australian singer-songwriter Domini Forster. Her 2017 debut album Raven reminds me a great deal of Jane Siberry’s self-titled debut album.
This is a solo performance of “If I Only Had a Brain” with Forster on ukulele.
One thing you notice with Forster’s version is that she repeats a lot of it. And it is still short. Done straight through, it clocks in at about one minute and 20 seconds.
I figure that is what Livingston Taylor was thinking when he came up with his idea of creating matching songs for the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. It was released on his album Good Friends.
He does an excellent job of matching the lyrics with clever bits like “I’d be friends with the sparrows; and the guy who shoots the arrows; if I only had a heart.”
What’s more, he’s made the music quite a bit more complex with a smooth jazz sound. I’m very impressed with it, but I actually prefer to listen to Forster’s simple version. I just wish she was doing the extra lyrics.
Regardless, this is a great version.
Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow is in the Public Domain. It is unclear as to whether the press-materials were distributed by a personal publicity agency representing the subject, or if they were distributed by an agency employed to publicize the film, or the first CBS television broadcast of the film, which aired on 3 November 1956.