May 31

Poignant and Evocative: “Beautiful Dreamer” by Bing Crosby

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!

This is the first stanza and the opening lines of this famous 19th-century song. Sweet, mellow, gentle — these are a few words to describe this classic tune. With every meaning hidden in every line, one can give his/her interpretation while listening to the song.

About the Song

Poignant and Evocative: "Beautiful Dreamer" by Bing Crosby 1
Stephen Foster. Photo Credits:

A popular parlor song in the 19th century, “Beautiful Dreamer” was penned by American songwriter Stephen C. Foster. It was published two months after Foster’s death in 1864. The song is considered to be the last song ever written by Foster. Many artists have covered the song but the most notable one is the version of Bing Crosby in 1940.

The song is about a lover serenading a “beautiful dreamer” who is unaware of worldly fun. In addition, the dreamer may also be actually dead. To have an insight, most of Foster’s works and pieces talk about dead young women which includes his sister Charlotte.

American singer-songwriter Helen Lightner points out,

“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.”

Notable Recordings

Poignant and Evocative: "Beautiful Dreamer" by Bing Crosby 2
Bing Crosby. Photo Credits:

Various artists of different genres have recorded “Beautiful Dreamer“. The most popular recording, however, is that of Bing Crosby together with John Scott Trotter & his Orchestra on March 22, 1940. Additionally, other recordings of the song also include the covers of The Nutmegs, Steve Conway with Jack Byfield, Thomas Hampson, and John Leyton. In 1963, Roy Orbison included it on his album In Dreams, which was a top ten hit in Australia.

In 1962, Jim Reeves performed his own version while on tour in South Africa. Interestingly, he sang the song in Afrikaans, one of the official languages of South Africa. Furthermore, in 2014, the posthumous farewell album of Ray Price, Beauty Is… Ray Price, The Final Sessions include “Beautiful Dreamer” as one of the singles.

In addition to these recordings, there was also a documentary film named after the song. It was entitled Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of Smile. In the documentary, Brian Wilson jests that the first letters of the lyrics of the song, “Beautiful Dreamer, Wake” compare with his own initials, Brian Douglas Wilson.

Listen to Bing Crosby’s version of Stephen Foster’s classic “Beautiful Dreamer” below:

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Beautiful Dreamer, Bing Crosby, Stephen Foster

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