Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair

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For the television show, see Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (anime).
"Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair"
JeanieWithTheLightBrownHair1854.png
Original sheet music cover
Music by Stephen Foster
Lyrics by Stephen Foster
Published New York: Firth, Pond & Co. (1854)
Language English
Form Strophic

"Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" is a parlor song by Stephen Foster (1826-1864). It was published by Firth, Pond & Co. of New York in 1854. Foster wrote the song with his wife Jane McDowell in mind. The lyrics[1] contain meaning of permanent separation.

"Jeanie" was a notorious beneficiary of the ASCAP boycott of 1941. During this period, most modern music could not be played by the major radio broadcasters due to a dispute over licensing fees. The broadcasters used public-domain songs during this period, and according to a 1941 article in Time magazine, "So often had BMI's Jeannie [sic] With the Light Brown Hair been played that she was widely reported to have turned grey."[2]

Back Story[edit]

In 1850, Stephen Foster married Jane Denny McDowell, whose nickname was "Jennie." The marriage was short-lived, however, as the pair suffered numerous conflicts and ultimately separated in 1853. Perhaps in attempt to win back his wife, Foster composed "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" in 1854. The opening texts of each stanza support the speculation that the song was written with Jane in mind: "I dream of Jeanie" (verse one); "I long for Jeanie" (verse two); and "I sigh for Jeanie" (verse three).

While today "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" remains one of Foster's most beloved parlor ballads, the song was virtually unknown during its time. When it was first published, the royalties on the ten thousand copies sold earned just over 200 dollars for Foster. However, Foster, who experienced financial difficulty through most of his career, had to sell the rights to "Jeanie" (as well as other songs, including "Old Folks at Home") to make ends meet. After his death, the rights to "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" were reverted back to Jane and to Foster's daughter Marion in 1879.

Lyric[edit]

Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair


By Stephen C. Foster


I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair,

Borne, like a vapor, on the summer air;

I see her tripping where the bright streams play,

Happy as the daisies that dance on her way.

Many were the wild notes her merry voice would pour.

Many were the blithe birds that warbled them o’er:

Oh! I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair,

Floating, like a vapor, on the soft summer air.


I long for Jeanie with the daydawn smile,

Radiant in gladness, warm with winning guile;

I hear her melodies, like joys gone by,

Sighing round my heart o’er the fond hopes that die:—

Sighing like the night wind and sobbing like the rain,—

Wailing for the lost one that comes not again:

Oh! I long for Jeanie, and my heart bows low,

Never more to find her where the bright waters flow.


I sigh for Jeanie, but her light form strayed

Far from the fond hearts round her native glade;

Her smiles have vanished and her sweet songs flown,

Flitting like the dreams that have cheered us and gone.

Now the nodding wild flowers may wither on the shore

While her gentle fingers will cull them no more:

Oh! I sigh for Jeanie with the light brown hair,

Floating, like a vapor, on the soft summer air.

Other versions[edit]

Violinist Jascha Heifetz transcribed the song for the violin and it became a signature piece for him for years. The transcription has been performed by many subsequent violinists.

The song's ubiquitous airplay in the 1940s led Spike Jones to create a parody, called "I Dream of Brownie with the Light Blue Jeans." In the song, it turns out that "Brownie" is a wire-haired terrier. The instrumental interlude contains a number of references to other Stephen Foster songs.

Les Brown's 1941 big-band song, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio", contained the quip, "We dream of Joey with the light brown bat."

The 1960 Bugs Bunny short From Hare To Heir, in which Bugs Bunny continually tries to provoke Yosemite Sam into losing his temper, features Bugs' version "I dream of Jeanie, she's a light brown hare..." His version also appears in the cartoon Apes of Wrath.

Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble sang a version of the song in an episode of The Flintstones titled, "The House Guests", which originally aired on December 22, 1961. The lyrics they used were, "My bosom buddy and my lifelong pal.....lah dee dee dah.....". They were trying to prove to Wilma and Betty that they could get along together without fighting while the Rubbles were forced to live with the Flintstones for a week due a water main break in the Rubbles' house.

The character of Laura Petrie, while under the influence of prescription tranquilizers and wine, sings a version of the song in the Season 4 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show entitled "Pink Pills and Purple Parents" (1964). The character, played by Mary Tyler Moore, sings the tune with the lyrics "I dream of Laura with the light brown hair, floating like a zeppelin on the summer air."

On The Alvin Show, David Seville, while courting a young woman, sang the song to her in a boat, much to the annoyance of Alvin and the Chipmunks, who retaliated with a silly and disrespectful spoof; "We dream of Jeanie with the green-purple hair/She looks so funny, people stop and stare..." which insults Dave's girlfriend and irritates Dave himself.

In the John Cassavetes motion picture Faces, an important scene occurs which revolves around the singing of this song.

The opening line notably got used as the basis for the title of the TV series I Dream of Jeannie.

The full title is used as the nickname for character 'Jeanie' in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, most notably several times in episode 'The Cold Open'.

On the September 8, 1966 episode of "F Troop", "The Singing Mountie", the title character (Paul Lynde) sings the song to blonde Wrangler Jane as "I Dream of Wrangler with the light yellow hair."

Stina Nordenstam opens her 1998 People are strange album of covers with an original reworking of this song.

In popular culture[edit]

A few lines of the song's first stanza are sung, a cappella, in the Band of Brothers episode "Bastogne" by soldiers Liebgott, Alley and an unnamed soldier, in a foxhole, shortly before being shelled by Nazi artillery.

References[edit]

  1. ^ O'Connell, Joanne. "Understanding Stephen Collins Foster, His World and Music", ProQuest. March 23, 2007.
  2. ^ "No Letup". Time Magazine. January 27, 1941.