Hopes and dreams

Follow that dream even when you can see the entire staircase

Follow that dream even when you cannot see the entire staircase

As I write this, Washington, DC is preparing to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” At the event, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the sixteenth and last speaker and delivered his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which over time is considered to be a masterpiece of rhetoric. “I have a dream,” King shouted to the crowd, his voice reverberating with emotion. “I have a dream . . .that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Well, the rest is history as they say. Not many, if any, remember the speeches of any of the other speakers that day – a veritable “Who’s Who” of the civil rights movement at the time – A. Philip Randolph, Eugene Carson Blake, Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, Walter Reuther, Floyd McKissick, Whitney Young, Mathew Ahmann, and Roy Wilkinson, but almost everyone remembers King’s inspiring words and his vision, his dream.

It seems altogether appropriate that the song that I bring to you today is simply entitled, Dream. Sometimes this song is referred to as Dream (When You’re Feeling Blue), and has become a jazz and pop standard. The song was written by the prolific Johnny Mercer in 1944. Of course, the dream about which Mercer writes is a different kind of dream than the one to which Dr. King was referring, but the songwriter’s message is worth pondering, even today.

Johnny Mercer, always the eternal optimist, and writing before the outcome of World War Two was determined, offers the following advice: Even though things may seem bad and cause us to be down-hearted, we can still dream that those things will get better and who knows, those aspirations may come true. So “dream, dream, dream!” Here are Mercer’s complete lyrics:
Dream when you’re feeling blue
Dream that’s the thing to do
Just watch the smoke rings in the air
You’ll find your share of memories there
So dream when the day is through
Dream and they might come true
Things are never as bad as they seem
So dream dream dream

The song was recorded by several artists in the 1940s and 1950s, with the most popular versions recorded by the Pied Pipers, Frank Sinatra, Freddy Martin, Jimmy Dorsey, the Four Aces, Ray Anthony, and the Voices of Walter Schumann.

Other versions fall outside the time-frame of 1945-1955 and I can do no more than list them here. One such version was recorded in 1958 by Betty Johnson in an interpretation that spent seven weeks on the charts: #19 on the Billboard charts. Roy Orbison included a cover of the song on his popular and critically acclaimed 1963 album, In Dreams. Orbison’s version was later resurrected for the soundtrack to the 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail. A lush version, with orchestrations and arrangements by Nelson Riddle can be heard on the 1964 Ella Fitzgerald release, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook. Andy Williams released a version on his 1964 album, The Wonderful World of Andy Williams. A rendition of the song was made by blues-legend Etta James in 1961 and former Beatle, Ringo Starr had a version on his 1970 album Sentimental Journey. Also in 1970, a vocal quartet that included lead singer Sue Allen (who sang with The Pied Pipers in the 1950s), recorded the song with the same arrangement as the 1945 hit version, for Time-Life Records, and most recently, Michael Bublé featured it on his 2002 album Dream. Bublé re-recorded the track Dream for his album Call Me Irresponsible, in 2007.

To listen to a song, click on the song title. All versions of the song are from 1945 unless otherwise noted.

Pied Pipers, Paul Weston and his Orchestra Dream
Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra Dream
Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, vocals by Artie Wayne Dream
Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra, vocals by Teddy Walters Dream
Four Aces featuring Al Alberts (1954) Dream
Ray Anthony and his Orchestra, vocals by The Skylines (from the 1955 Fred Astaire–Leslie Caron musical film, Daddy Long Legs) Dream
Voices of Walter Schumann (1955) Dream (Note: Song does not begin immediately after the song is downloaded. Please be patient. It is worth the wait)

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