The Impossible Dream (The Quest)
"The Impossible Dream (The Quest)" is a popular song composed by Mitch Leigh, with lyrics written by Joe Darion. The song is the most popular song from the 1965 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha and is also featured in the 1972 film of the same name starring Peter O'Toole.
The song is sung all the way through once in the musical by Don Quixote as he stands vigil over his armor, in response to Aldonza (Dulcinea)'s question about what he means by "following the quest". It is reprised partially three more times — the last by prisoners in a dungeon as Miguel de Cervantes and his manservant mount the drawbridge-like prison staircase to face trial by the Spanish Inquisition.
It was awarded the Contemporary Classics Award from the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
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- 1965: Richard Kiley on the original Broadway cast album of Man of La Mancha
- 1966: Ed Ames on More I Cannot Wish You RCA LSP-3636 (stereo)/LPM-3636 (mono)
- 1968: Sergio Franchi on the album Wine and Song (RCA Victor)
- 1966: Jack Jones (with altered lyrics); this version hit number 35 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and went to number one on the U.S. adult contemporary chart
- 1966: Jim Nabors on the album Love Me With All Your Heart (also on the Gomer Pyle TV show in 1972)
- 1966: Frank Sinatra on his album That's Life
- 1968: The Imperials on the album New Dimensions
- 1967: The Temptations on their album The Temptations in a Mellow Mood
- 1969: Scott Walker on his album Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from his TV Series
- 1960: Shani Wallis on her album As Long as He Needs Me
- 1961: The Vogues on the album Turn Around, Look At Me
- 1965: Robert Goulet on the album On Broadway
- 1966: Johnny Mathis on So Nice
- 1967: Connie Francis on Happiness: Connie Francis on Broadway Today
- 1967: Matt Monro on Impossible Dream
- 1967: Shirley Bassey on And We Were Lovers
- 1967: The Lettermen on Spring!
- 1968: Andy Williams on the album Honey
- 1968: Cher on the album Backstage
- 1968: Jacques Brel on the French cast album L'Homme de la Mancha
- 1968: Ray Conniff on It Must Be Him
- 1968: The Smothers Brothers on their album Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
- 1968: The Temptations and The Supremes on the soundtrack for the TV special T.C.B.
- 1969: Glen Campbell on a 45 RPM single, and Hey Little One album (Capitol)
- 1970: Roberta Flack on Chapter Two
- 1970: Tom Jones, album Tom
- 1971: Nora Aunor on her album Nora Today
- 1971: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Climb Every Mountain
- 1972: Elvis Presley on his album Elvis as Recorded at Madison Square Garden, recorded June 10
- 1972: Maynard Ferguson on his album The Ballad Style of Maynard Ferguson
- 1972: Simon Gilbert provided the singing voice for Peter O'Toole in the soundtrack to the film Man of La Mancha
- 1974: Alex Harvey on the SAHB album The Impossible Dream
- 1974: Ken Boothe on his album Everything I Own
- 1975: Maria Bethânia (Brazilian version "Sonho Impossível'") live on Simplesmente Bethânia (1990 album)
- 1989: Colm Wilkinson on his album Stage Heroes
- 1990: Anthony Warlow on his album Centre Stage
- 1991: Jon Cypher on the TV show Major Dad, season 2 episode 19
- 1992: Carter USM on their album 1992 – The Love Album
- 1993: Scott Bakula on the TV Series soundtrack for Quantum Leap
- 1994: Luther Vandross on Songs
- 1995: Gordon MacRae on The Broadway Album
- 1996: Plácido Domingo on the studio cast recording of Man of la Mancha
- 1996: Tevin Campbell on Rhythm of the Games Atlanta Olympic Games Album by LaFace Records
- 1998: Lesley Garrett on her self-titled album
- 1998: Liberace on Plays the Classics
- 1998: Mantovani on Film & Theatre Themes
- 2000: Jane McDonald on her album Inspiration 2000
- 2000: Ron Raines on the cast recording of the Covent Garden revival of Man of la Mancha
- 2001: Florence Ballard on her album The Supreme Florence Ballard
- 2002: Brian Stokes Mitchell on the cast album of the revival of Man of La Mancha
- 2002: Ronan Tynan on Impossible Dream: Live from Dublin
- 2003: Lena Martell on her album One Day at a Time – The Ultimate Collection
- 2003: Linda Eder on Broadway, My Way
- 2004: Gé Korsten on his album The Heart & Soul
- 2006: Andy Abraham on his debut album The Impossible Dream
- 2006: Frida Boccara on her album Place des Arts `71 Live
- 2007: Christopher Lee on his album Revelation
- 2007: Sarah Connor on her album Soulicious
- 2008: Rhydian Roberts on his debut album Rhydian
- 2008: Alfio on his album Classic Rewinds
- 2009: Mario Frangoulis at the Vancouver Peace Summit, Canada
- 2009: Mark Vincent on his album My Dream, Mio Visione
- 2009: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones recorded for the 7" Impossible Dream
- 2009: The Republic Tigers on the iTunes tribute album, His Way, Our Way
- 2010: Alfie Boe on his album Bring Him Home, duet with Matt Lucas
- 2010: Darius Campbell and Rolando in the final of ITV's Popstar to Operastar
- 2010: Rolando Villazón on Tenor
- 2011: Kika Edgar (the Spanish version "El Sueño Imposible") on her album Broadway
- 2012: Ramin Karimloo on his UK tour promoting his album Ramin
- 2013: Richard and Adam on their debut album The Impossible Dream
In popular culture
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On the television show Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., in an episode titled "The Show Must Go On," which aired November 3, 1967, Jim Nabors, as Pyle, sang a version of the song. In the episode, it is suggested that Pyle's audience might possibly include "the President," who, at the time, was Lyndon B. Johnson.
During Robert F. Kennedy's long shot campaign for the presidency in 1968, Senator George McGovern introduced him before a South Dakota stump speech by quoting from The Impossible Dream. Afterwards Kennedy questioned McGovern whether he really thought it was impossible. McGovern replied, "No, I don't think it's impossible. I just... wanted the audience to understand it's worth making the effort, whether you win or lose." Kennedy replied, "Well, that's what I think." It was actually Robert Kennedy's favorite song, and Andy Williams, who recorded the song, was one of Kennedy's close friends. The song was also a favorite of younger brother Ted Kennedy and was performed by Brian Stokes Mitchell at his memorial service in 2009.
The song is spoofed by British comedian John Cleese as part of his December 1977 appearance on The Muppet Show. For the show's closing number, as the opening chords of The Impossible Dream play in the background, Kermit the Frog introduces a rather bewildered Cleese – who immediately demands to speak with Kermit. Cleese then tells the frog that he refuses to sing old show tunes. Kermit apologizes and a few seconds later, the curtain reopens, this time with Cleese dressed as a Viking, as Sweetums attempts to duet with him in Wagnerian opera. Cleese is not thrilled with this either, so they try putting him in a Mexican maraca solo costume. When Cleese tells Kermit that "there's no way I'll do a song", the pigs and monsters he didn't want to work with are brought out on stage.
- JOHN CLEESE: You were supposed to be my host. How could you do this to me? Kermit – I am your guest!
- CAST: (singing to "Impossible Dream") This is your guest – To follow that star ...
In the Quantum Leap episode, "To Catch a Falling Star" (1989; season 2), Sam "leaps" into the body of an understudy to an alcoholic actor in order to prevent him taking a career-ending fall during a performance of Man of La Mancha. Sam's "host" takes over for the actor, and at the end of the episode, sings The Impossible Dream. The alcoholic actor is played by John Collum, who alternated with Richard Kiley in the original stage run of Man of La Mancha.
In the Touched by an Angel episode entitled "The Impossible Dream" (2002; season 8), features Luther Vandross as Reggie Hunter, a janitor at his former high school with a great voice that gave up a singing career twenty-five years early. At the end of the episode, he sings "The Impossible Dream" in a concert to honor his Aunt Charlotte, a choral teacher, who is retiring. 
In 2005, a two-minute-long television advertisement for Honda used the Andy Williams recording as a soundtrack. It was named "Television Advertisement of the Year" in the British Television Advertising Awards.
The French version of the song was sung at the funeral mass for the dowager queen, Queen Fabiola of Belgium, on December 12, 2014.
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The song was a favorite of Philippine hero Evelio Javier, the assassinated governor of the province of Antique in the Philippines and the song has become a symbol of his sacrifice for democracy. Javier was shot and killed in the plaza of San Jose, Antique during the counting following the 1986 Snap Elections, an act which contributed to the peaceful overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos by Cory Aquino in the People Power Revolution. Every year, Javier is remembered on Evelio Javier Day and the song is featured. The song's lyrics are written in brass on a monument in the plaza where he was shot.
- "Composer Mitch Leigh Endows Chair in Jazz at Yale", opa.yale.edu, September 12, 2006
- Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–2001. Record Research. p. 131.
- ""Impossible Dream" remembered on Opening Day". 9 April 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
- Schlesinger, Arthur M. (1978;1990). Robert Kennedy And His Times. Ballantyne Books
- "Ted Kennedy's Wake: Farewell to 'Captain Ahab', Time Magazine". Time.com. 2009-08-29. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
- "John Cleese appearance on the Muppet Show, as cited on Muppet Central Web site". muppetcentral.com. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
- Griffith, Jeremy (2011). Freedom Book 1. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-74129-011-0.