Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair

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"Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair"
Original sheet music cover
GenreParlor song
Songwriter(s)Stephen Foster

"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 estranged wife Jane McDowell in mind. The lyrics allude to a permanent separation.[1]

"Jeanie" was a notorious beneficiary of the ASCAP boycott of 1941, a dispute caused by ASCAP increasing its licensing fees. During this period, radio broadcasters played only public domain music or songs licensed by ASCAP rival BMI. 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]


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]

Bing Crosby recorded the song on March 22, 1940, for Decca Records with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra.[3]

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.

In popular culture[edit]

House in Hoboken, New Jersey where Foster composed Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.

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

In the 1956 Bugs Bunny short "Broomstick Bunny", a play on the title is used in the closing lines: "Hello, air-raid headquarters? Well, you're not gonna believe this, but I just saw a genie with light brown hair chasing a flying sorceress." Bugs would also, in other shorts, sing a variation: "I dream of Jeanie, she's a light brown hare."

Episode 12 of the first season of the Phil Silvers Show, title "Singing Contest" involves his platoon very badly singing the same song throughout the show but a private in the platoon who has an excellent singing voice saves their chances to win and they all end up in Florida for the Army finals.

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

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

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

One of the Pink Panther animated cartoons is entitled Genie with the Light Pink Fur; it is about a magic lamp that turns the Pink Panther into a genie.

A song segment from The Alvin Show devoted to this song has Dave Seville courting a young woman named, interestingly enough, Jeanie, singing the song to her in a boat while she admires it; meanwhile, Dave's charges the Chipmunks, who, disgusted with all this, counter with a very silly and inappropriate spoof, "I dream of Jeanie with the green purple hair/She looks so funny, people stop and stare.." which insults Jeanie and offends Dave to the point of forcing the Chipmunks to sing the song with its proper, correct lyrics until they know them by heart as punishment.

In an animated alphabet segment from Sesame Street featuring a boy with a big egg on his knee and a girl jumping rope. They comment on the egg while reciting bits of the alphabet in rhyme; after they reach the end with Z, the egg bursts and hatches a tap dancing lizard who does a singing soft shoe version of the song.

In the movie Beyond Tomorrow (1940), the character Jimmy Houston (Richard Carlson) sings the entire song during a Christmas dinner with a band accompaniment.

The opening line of the song is heard on a parlor piano in the 1998 television movie, The Love Letter.


  1. ^ O'Connell, Joanne. "Understanding Stephen Collins Foster, His World and Music", ProQuest. March 23, 2007.
  2. ^ "No Letup". Time Magazine. January 27, 1941.
  3. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved August 5, 2017.