When Ariana Grande sang the opening notes to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” her chosen closer at the “One Love Manchester” concert on June 4, the “Wizard of Oz” classic came as a surprise to fans — one especially, her mother.
“I didn’t know she was going to sing it,” Joan Grande tells Variety, explaining that the song had special significance for the family. “It’s an emotional story: my father passed away two and half years ago, and that was the song she sang for him after he passed.”
Ariana Grande was very close to her grandfather, Frank Grande, who died in July 2014, and the Judy Garland staple was one of his all-time favorites. “No matter how many hit songs she had, and no matter how incredible her concerts were — and he was always the first one there, applauding, kissing her, being in the front row — after every show, he would say, ‘Ariana you know what song you have to sing? “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” And she would say, ‘Grandpa, I don’t know if that would work on a pop album.’ And he said, ‘I promise you, it’s gonna be a big hit. It’s the greatest song ever written.'” (“My Everything,” which Grande also sang, was written with her grandfather in mind.)
Though Grande had sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as a child, and in private throughout the years, the song had never been part of her stage show as a pop singer. So to debut it at such an emotional show had even more significance.
Backstage following the concert, Joan Grande tears up as she describes her daughter’s conviction in the days after the Manchester Arena attack. “She wanted to do whatever she could to help heal a city where a horrific tragedy took place,” says Joan. “That’s really all she could think about — getting back here and going to see and visit everyone in the hospital, to go and meet with the families. She had real conviction about this. Ariana didn’t cry for days because of her fear for herself, she cried for the lives that were lost and her fans that were hurt. And that impacted her to a point where it was devastating pain. And she said, ‘This isn’t about me — this is what I have to do to make them feel safe and feel better.’ She’s quite a remarkable young lady.”