Beautiful Dreamer

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"Beautiful Dreamer"
Sheet music, 1st edition
Writtenpossibly 1862
PublishedMarch 1864
Songwriter(s)Stephen Foster

"Beautiful Dreamer" is a parlor song by American songwriter Stephen Foster. It was published posthumously in March 1864, by Wm. A. Pond & Co. of New York. The first edition states on its title page that it is "the last song ever written by Stephen C. Foster, composed but a few days prior to his death."[1] However, Carol Kimball, the author of Song, points out that the first edition's copyright is dated 1862, which suggests, she writes, that the song was composed and readied for publication two years before Foster's death. There are at least 20 songs, she observes, that claim to be Foster's last, and it is unknown which is indeed his last. The song is set in 9
time with a broken chord accompaniment.[2][3]

The song tells of a lover serenading a "Beautiful Dreamer" who is oblivious to worldly cares and may actually be dead. Foster's works feature many dead young women, including his sister Charlotte[3] and "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair".[2] Helen Lightner writes, "This sentimental ballad is folk-like in character with its repetitious but lovely melody and its basic harmonic accompaniment ... The quiet and calm of this mood is portrayed by the monotony of the arpeggiated accompaniment, by the repetitiveness of the melodic pattern, and by the strophic form itself."[4]


Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight have all passed away!
Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea,
Mermaids are chanting the wild lorelei;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.
Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

Recordings, film, and literature[edit]


"Beautiful Dreamer" by Currier and Ives

The song has been recorded by Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter & his Orchestra (March 22, 1940);[5] The Nutmegs; Steve Conway[6] with Jack Byfield & His Orchestra; Thomas Hampson with Jay Ungar (mandolin), David Alpher (piano), and Molly Mason (guitar); John Leyton (with revised lyrics by Ken Lewis and John Carter); Jerry Lee Lewis;[7] Slim Whitman; and Roy Orbison on the album In Dreams (a top ten Australian single in 1964).

According to the 1991 DVD, 'Gentleman Jim Reeves - The Story of a Legend', the US singer recorded the song while on tour in South Africa in 1962, sung in Afrikaans under the title "Bolandse Nooientjie". (A brief translation is fraught; "lass of the hinterland" is one possibility.) Although Reeves could not speak Afrikaans, this was remedied by South African composer and songwriter Gilbert Gibson, who stood behind Reeves and whispered the words of the song to him, who would then sing the same words into the microphone. The song appeared on the 33 rpm LP 'The Jim Reeves Way' a 1965 UK 'red spot' label 12-track 'Dynagroove' Mono LP, co-produced by Chet Atkins & including two tracks sung in Afrikaans; one of which was Bolandse Nooientjie.

Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller wrote a doo-wop version for Tony Orlando[8] which took considerable liberties with the original; the opening quatrain, for instance is "Beautiful Dreamer/Wake unto me/Can't you see me, baby/I'm on my bended knee." Orlando released this version as a single in 1962[9] and it quickly became a regular part of the Beatles' set list, from 1962 through the Beatles Winter 1963 Helen Shapiro Tour in early 1963.[10] A recording of a 1963 Beatles performance of the song on the BBC was released in 2013 on their album On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2. Rory Storm and The Hurricanes also featured the song in their live performances.[11] This version has been recorded by Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas.

Udo Jürgens recorded a German language version as Beautiful Dreamgirl in 1964.[12] Wolfgang Roloff aka "Ronny" (1930-2011) another one in 1975: "Träumendes Mädchen" ("Dreaming Girl").

Bobby Darin recorded a bluesy version of the song with all-new lyrics, but the song was unreleased until 1999 (on the album Bobby Darin: The Unreleased Capitol Sides). No attribution is given for the new lyrics; one possibility is that Darin might have written these himself. These lyrics tell about a lonely woman who dreams of a love of her own, and a lonely man who dreams of love too. The reference to a queen is retained in Darin's version, asking if the woman is a "queen without a throne".

The song is also featured on Marty Robbins' posthumous album Long, Long Ago (1984) and on Ray Price's posthumous farewell album Beauty Is... Ray Price, the Final Sessions (2014).

The documentary Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of Smile is named after the song, and in the documentary Brian Wilson quips that the first letters of the words "Beautiful Dreamer, Wake" compare with his own initials, Brian Douglas Wilson.


Bette Davis hums the song in her Academy Award-winning performance, Best Actress, of 1938, Jezebel.[citation needed]

The song was central to the plot of the film Mighty Joe Young, as it is used throughout the film to calm the title character, a large gorilla.[13]

The tune is a motif in the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947 film), where Virginia Mayo's character plays it at key points.

In the 1952 biopic of Stephen Foster entitled I Dream of Jeanie, there is a scene where Stephen Foster, played by Bill Shirley, sings this song as a serenade to one of his two love interests in the film.[citation needed] A recording of the Foster version was released with the "Truth or Square" episode of SpongeBob SquarePants featuring the voice of Roger Bumpass in 2009.

Song is touched on repeatedly relating to the subliminal stimuli throughout 2018 film Distorted (film). The song is used as a recurring theme in Winchester (2018) with Helen Mirren.[citation needed]

The song is used as a theme song in the 2020 Netflix movie Lost Girls.[citation needed]

In Young Frankenstein (1974), the song is referenced, when the ghoulish Marty Feldman, hearing a shrill and anguished female wail from a remote dungeon, smiles and (almost) sings "beautiful screamer...". In Lorelei (film) (2021) the song is featured in several scenes and gives the film its title.


The song is pivotal to E. B. White's 1970 novel The Trumpet of the Swan. Louis the trumpeter swan learns the tune during his long journey to find his voice via a stolen trumpet and a chalk slate. In a climactic scene, he belts out its poetry on his trumpet at dawn, declaring his love in the Philadelphia Zoo to the beautiful swan Serena, the object of his long unrequited love. White also includes the public domain sheet music in the novel, perhaps to encourage similarly dramatic loving gestures. The song was also used in The Diviners book 2, Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray.


  1. ^ Catalogue of first editions of Stephen C. Foster (1826–1864). Library of Congress. p. 9.
  2. ^ a b Carol Kimball. Song: a guide to art song style and literature. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 248.
  3. ^ a b Michael Saffle. 2000. Perspectives on American music, 1900–1950 Taylor & Francis. p. 382.
  4. ^ Helen Lightner. Class voice and the American art song: a source book and anthology. Scarecrow Press. p. 32.
  5. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  6. ^ "Steve Conway Songs List: All Old & New". AllMusic. Retrieved 2021-09-23.
  7. ^ Jerry Lee Lewis, Rocket Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  8. ^ Beautiful Dreamer at AllMusic
  9. ^ "Record Details". 45cat. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  10. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (1996). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Bounty Books. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-85152-975-9.
  11. ^ Harry, Bill. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Tragic Story of Rory Storm & the Hurricanes". Mersey Beat. Retrieved 2020-01-21.
  12. ^ Udo Jürgens' version Beautiful Dreamgirl on YouTube
  13. ^ Erb, Cynthia Marie (2009). Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture. Wayne State University Press. p. 140. Retrieved March 23, 2019.