Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tuneful Tuesday: It Came to Me in a Dream

This morning I woke up with a song running through my head:
...For dreams are just like wine
And I am drunk with mine.
I'm aware
My heart is a sad affair,
There's much disillusion there,
But I can dream, can't I?
Can't I adore you
Although we are oceans apart,
I can't make you open your heart,
But I can dream, can't I?
Although I have three recordings of this song, I hadn't listened to it for quite a while. I puzzled for a while about why it should have come into my head. Finally I decided that it was because, when I went to bed last night, I was in the middle of A False Mirror by Charles Todd. It's one of a mystery series set just after World War I, featuring a police detective who is haunted, literally, by his experiences in the trenches. In this book, there is a major character whose life is complicated by an unrequited love as in the song.

At any rate, that got me thinking about songs featuring dreams, so here are a few favorites in different genres.

1. I Can Dream, Can't I? -- Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal -- 1938.
Fain and Kahal wrote several songs for a musical called Right This Way which ran for only 10 days in early 1938. But two of the songs from that musical became classic standards -- "I'll Be Seeing You" and this one. Tommy Dorsey recorded it for a hit in 1938, and in 1946, the Gordon Jenkins Orchestra, with the Andrews Sisters, had an even bigger hit. In 1969 it was recorded by Mama Cass Elliott and in 1975, by the Carpenters. My personal favorite recording is by Bobby Short and appears on his album Late Night at the Cafe Carlyle.

2. All I Have to Do Is Dream -- Felice and Boudleaux Bryant -- 1958.
There were plenty of songs about dreams in the 1950s rock'n'roll scene, but the quintessential one, appearing on several Best Songs of All Time lists, is this one, a hit for the Everly Brothers in 1959. "Only trouble is, Gee whiz, I'm dreamin' my life away." Several other people have recorded this song, and who can blame them, as I can't resist singing along whenever I hear it -- but I don't know who could possibly do better than Don and Phil's rendition. You can find lots of videos of them on YouTube, but seriously, you need to have their Greatest Hits CD.

3. Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart -- George Croly (words) and Frederick C. Atkinson (music) -- 1854/1870.
Did you think you were going to get out of here without a Sacred Song? Think again! The Cyberhymnal lets you search hymns by keyword but I didn't need to search for this one. We sang it quite a bit at my old church and I've always loved this verse:
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

George Croly, the Anglican clergyman who wrote this, doesn't really sound like my kind of guy according to some of the biographies out there (he was firmly opposed to any form of liberalism, for example). But this verse has always touched me. Recently the RevGalBlogPals read and discussed the book Listening for God by Renita Weems. Rev. Weems was brought up in a Pentecostal tradition, where ecstatic experiences are sought and expected. The book tells of how she deals with a period of spiritual dryness. I had a hard time relating to her concerns, mostly because I've never had the kind of mountaintop experience she seemed to be missing (and probably wouldn't know what to do with it if I did have one!) About the most I hope for is just what Croly asks: Take the dimness of my soul away. I couldn't actually find a recording I liked that had the verse I wanted. But it's in both the New Century Hymnal and the Pilgrim Hymnal, and probably quite a few more. The tune is called Morecambe.

4. Devil's Dream -- Traditional -- Date unknown.
And now for something completely different, both in musical genre and perhaps in spiritual connotation! Most sources agree that this is an Irish reel, and you will probably recognize it when you hear it even if you didn't know its name. Like the classical piece, Devil's Trill Sonata by Tartini, this piece appears to be technically demanding for both the fiddler and banjo player (it's often done by bluegrass groups). I downloaded two versions, one by Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys with banjo and other instruments as well as the fiddle, and one by the French-Canadian fiddler Jean Carignan. But here's a fiddler/guitarist on YouTube doing a very nice job with it.

5. When I Grow Too Old to Dream -- Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II -- 1934.
A few years ago, Sisterknits had the opportunity to hear Dave Brubeck at the University of Minnesota. She brought me back a souvenir in the form of a CD called Private Brubeck Remembers. In it, Brubeck takes us on a musical journey through his experience of World War II by playing songs that had meaning for him then and now. One of them is this one:
So kiss me, my sweet,
And then let us part.
And when I grow too old to dream,
That kiss will live in my heart.
The song was written in 1934 for the film The Night Is Young, an operetta set in Vienna. It's a beautiful, wistful waltz, evoking a time when lovers were too often parted. Do try to get hold of Brubeck's version, but if you can't, here is one that's a bit different. Look beyond the guitarist's unfortunate choice of attire and just enjoy the music:

6. Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream -- Ed McCurdy -- 1950.
In 1950, just a few years after World War II, just as the United Nations was getting going, Ed McCurdy wrote this song. I don't know whether he wrote it before or after June 25, when hostilities broke out in Korea. As the years went on, more and more people sang and recorded this song, but the dream sometimes seems further away than ever. My recording of this is by The Weavers, but I found a nice video of a man playing and singing it in his living room.
If you want something really interesting, check the "related videos" box for the one with Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, and Palestinian poet Rashid Hussain. Mr. Hussain doesn't seem to be much of a musician, but I think he really is singing along.

What are your favorite songs about dreams? Leave a comment if you have one.


Crimson Rambler said...

You reminded me of something...my grandfather could play "The Devil's Dream" on the harmonica....as long as he had his own teeth. This talent was not passed down, I'm sorry to say.

cordeliaknits said...

"Dream Child" by Cris Williamson, "I'll Dream of You Tonight" by Hem, and "A Kiss to Build a Dream on" as done by Tony Bennett and kd lang are the three that come to mind right now.

Lately I've been having a lot of nightmares, though, so my dreams have not really been song-worthy.