"Beautiful Dreamer" is a parlor song by American songwriter Stephen Foster (July 4, 1826 – January 13, 1864). 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." 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
8 time with a broken chord accompaniment.
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 and "Jeanie". 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."
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
The song has been recorded by Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter & his Orchestra (March 22, 1940); The Nutmegs; Steve Conway 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; Slim Whitman; and Roy Orbison on the album In Dreams (a top ten Australian single in 1964). 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. 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).
Jim Reeves recorded a version 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.
Bing Crosby included the song in a medley on his album On the Sentimental Side (1962).
Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller wrote a doo-wop version for Tony Orlando 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 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. 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. This version has been recorded by Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas.
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".
Wolfgang Roloff aka "Ronny" (1930-2011) recorded a German language version in 1975: "Träumendes Mädchen" ("Dreaming Girl").
Bette Davis hums the song in her Academy Award-winning performance, Best Actress, of 1938, Jezebel.
The song appeared in An American Tail in the scene of the cats underground hideout being played on the piano.
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.
In The Little Rascals Save The Day, Alfalfa sings the song on the last day of school.
The song is used in the 1994 movie "Cabin Boy" starring Chris Elliott and directed by Adam Resnick.
The song is used as a recurring theme in Winchester (2018) with Helen Mirren.
The song is used as a theme song in the 2020 Netflix movie Lost Girls.
The song is also used in Gone with the Wind (1939); Second Chorus (1940); Shane (1953); Goin' South (1978); Duel in the Sun; The Night of the Grizzly; She Done Him Wrong (1933); Picnic (1955); The Death Collector (1976); How to Make an American Quilt (1995); Batman (1989); The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947); the animated An American Tail; Friends 'Til the End; Office Space; the Marx Brothers's Go West (1940); The Old Chisholm Trail; The Naked Spur; and Domino Kid (1957);. In Young Frankenstein (1974), the song is also referenced, when the ghoulish Marty Feldman, hearing a shrill and anguished female wail from a remote dungeon, smiles and (almost) sings "beautiful screamer...". In Kansas Raiders (1950) the song is played on harmonica around the campfire in one scene.
The song was used in Far Cry's New Dawn video game, where Prosperity girl sings this song.
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.
- The song was played by a pianist in a saloon on the Western TV show Cheyenne Season 7 Episode 104 "Vengeance is Mine" 1962.
- The song was sung by Clint Walker. His character Cheyenne Bodie was posing as James Merritt in the TV Western show Cheyenne Season 3 Episode 37 "The Conspirators" 1957.
- The song was played by a male pianist in a saloon on the Western TV show Cheyenne Season 3 Episode 54 "Noose at Noon" 1957.
- The song was played by a male pianist in a saloon and partially sung by him on the Western TV show Cheyenne Season 4 Episode 59 "Trial by Conscience " 1958
- The song was sung by Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh in Season 4, Episode 10 of The Magicians.
- The second verse was covered by Rodger Bumpass as Squidward Tentacles over the credits of the SpongeBob SquarePants episode Truth or Square.
- The song was in an episode of Gunsmoke in which Kitty meets her father, approximately 1957. Episode was called "Daddy-O" season 2 episode 36.
- It was played by a female pianist in a saloon at Little Joe's request in the 1966 "Credit for a Kill" episode of Bonanza.
- Weasel from The Animals of Farthing Wood sings the first part of this song to wake up Adder.
- The song was played on the harmonica and the piano many times by Jon Walmsley as Jason Walton on the 1970s television show The Waltons.
- Toby Noe (Ray Bolger) played and sang the song in the Little House on the Prairie episode "Dance with Me" from season 5 episode 17 in order to court a woman.
- Colonel Paul Foster (Michael Billington) sings the song in the closing moments of the UFO episode, "Ordeal" after recovering from a hallucination caused by passing out in the sauna whilst hungover at SHADO's Research Centre/health farm.
- The song was performed by Drake Bell and Alec Medlock during the credits of the Drake and Josh episode "Eric Punches Drake".
- In "The Talent Show" from the 2003 The Berenstain Bears, Brother Bear discovers Too-Tall Bear singing this song and recruits him as his "showstopper" for the school talent show.
- In an episode of Rugrats, Didi sings this song to Dil as a lullaby.
- In an episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, the Library Monster sings this song as Beautiful Screamer.
- In an episode of "The Care Bears" Grams tells a story of a broadway star who gives a young washer woman the confidence to go on-stage and perform in a show.
- Catalogue of first editions of Stephen C. Foster (1826–1864). Library of Congress. p. 9.
- Carol Kimball. Song: a guide to art song style and literature. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 248.
- Michael Saffle. 2000. Perspectives on American music, 1900–1950 Taylor & Francis. p. 382.
- Helen Lightner. Class voice and the American art song: a source book and anthology. Scarecrow Press. p. 32.
- "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
- Jerry Lee Lewis, Rocket Retrieved April 8, 2012.
- Beautiful Dreamer at AllMusic
- "Record Details". 45cat. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
- on YouTube
- Lewisohn, Mark (1996). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Bounty Books. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-85152-975-9.
- Harry, Bill. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Tragic Story of Rory Storm & the Hurricanes". Mersey Beat. Retrieved 2020-01-21.
- Erb, Cynthia Marie (2009). Tracking King Kong: A Hollywood Icon in World Culture. Wayne State University Press. p. 140. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
- Doerschuk, Robert L. (October 1989). "Danny Elfman - The Agony & The Ectasy of Scoring Batman". Keyboard. Vol. 15 no. 10. GPI Publications. pp. 82–95. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
That's especially apparent where [Elfman] wrote solo episodes—the violin in [his] treatment of "Beautiful Dreamer," for instance.
- Far Cry New Dawn version of Beautiful Dreamer on YouTube.