Donielle Flynn

On May 6th, 1965, The Rolling Stones were in Florida on their first U.S. tour.  The crowd was chaotic and The Stones only played four songs before the show had to be shut down.  That night, Keith Richards woke from his sleep at his hotel with the riff and lyric for “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”  (source: Songfacts) Keith Richards said, “I wrote ‘Satisfaction’ in my sleep. I had no idea I’d written it.  Thank God for the little Philips cassette player.”  The recording has some guitar strumming before a pic hits the floor and snoring follows.

Dreams have always been a fascinating subject of study. Many artists’ and musicians’ dreams have been a starting point for amazing art and music. Let’s take an existential journey through some of the stories behind some of the greatest dream-influenced and inspired songs.

  • Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix

    Jimi Hendrix said this song was inspired by a dream he had.  He was walking under the sea before a purple haze surrounded him.  He got lost within the haze and was upset.  In his dream, Hendrix said that his faith in Jesus saved him.  The first lyrics for the song were “Purple Haze, Jesus saves.”  Hendrix said that the song had NOTHING to do with drugs but it was hard to believe since the song sounds like an acid trip and Jimi was definitely imbibing on occasion.


  • Yesterday - The Beatles

    Paul McCartney said he wrote the melody for “Yesterday” after waking from a dream. “I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought that’s great, I wonder what that is?  There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window.”  Paul tumbled out of bed and wrote down what was in his head, but he was worried he was ripping off another song because it sounded so familiar.  He played it for numerous friends to see if they knew the tune.  Once he knew it was original, he started writing lyrics.



  • Every Breath you Take - The Police

    Sting woke with the line “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you” in his head. He wrote the song in thirty minutes after jumping on his piano.  Sting has also said in interviews that he started out to write a love song, but then he saw his “other side” in the lyrics: jealousy and control.


  • Bang on the Drum - Todd Rundgren

    Todd heard this song while he slept. The tune just popped in his head. He hurried to the recording studio to put down what he recalled. “The success of that song is completely organic. It’s purposely cynical. The record label wasn’t taking it seriously and didn’t hear it as a single. It was just something that popped into my head while I slept.”

  • Street of Dreams By Rainbow

    Co-written by lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. According to Turner it was inspired by one of his dreams, “Literally, I wrote it in a dream. I woke up, wrote things down, sketches, then woke up the next morning, put it all together and it was the song. The whole thing, the reincarnation stuff. We were all dabbling in magic and everything else at the time, but this was absolutely true. That was a magical song.”

  • It’s the End of the World as We Know It - R.E.M.

    Michael Stipe wrote this song based on a dream of a party that was similar to an actual party he had attended. In the dream, all the party-goers had the initials L.B. and the only food was jelly beans and cheesecake.

  • #9 Dream - John Lennon

    John Lennon is quoted as saying this about the song, “I just churned that out. I’m not putting it down, it’s just what it is, but I just sat down and wrote it, you know, with no real inspiration, based on a dream I’d had.”

  • Dream Facts

    Everyone dreams: people and animals. People spend an average of two hours per night dreaming, although we forget most of them when we wake up.  Many of the dream-inspired song stories also involve the person IMMEDIATELY taking some kind of notes as to what they dreamt.

    Weird things can happen in our dreams because part of our brains shut down during sleep and it changes the way we perceive things.  Lucid dreams are dreams we have when we realize we are dreaming but are able to stay asleep and continue to dream.

    Here’s a list of songs that weren’t written from dreams, but do talk about some type of dreaming.  I saved my favorite dream song for last. 🙂

  • Dream On - Aerosmith

    Steven Tyler, while not directly affected by dreams, created “Dream On” after buying a piano with money he found in a (mobster?) suitcase. He took that experience and lessons he learned from his father to create the lyrics. It took him about six years to complete the song. To quote Tyler about the song, “It’s about the hunger to be somebody: Dream until your dreams come true.”


  • These Dreams - Heart

    When Heart signed with Columbia Record in 1985 they gained access to experienced songwriters to help with their music. Originally written for Steve Nicks, by Bernie Taupin and Martin Page, because the song had a “dream-like” quality. But Steve Nicks turned it down and it was repurposed for Heart.


  • Runnin' Down a Dream - Tom Petty

    Tom Petty wrote this because of his fascination with Elvis Presley.  According to Songfacts, Tom was eleven when he saw Elvis while he was working on the film Follow That Dream. Tom was mesmerized by how Elvis captivated viewers and drove girls mad. The animated music video was inspired by “Little Nemo In Slumberland” by Winsor McKay. Which was based around dreams of the main character, Nemo.

  • Dreams - Fleetwood Mac

    Quoted on Faroutmagazine; Stevie Nicks said “One day when I wasn’t required in the main studio,” Nicks told Blender magazine, “I took a Fender Rhodes piano and went into another studio that was said to belong to Sly Stone, of Sly and the Family Stone.  It was a black-and-red room, with a sunken pit in the middle where there was a piano and a big black-velvet bed with Victorian drapes. I sat down on the bed with my keyboard in front of me. I found a drum pattern, switched my little cassette player on, and wrote ‘Dreams’ in about 10 minutes.”

  • Little Dreamer - Van Halen

    “Little Dreamer” is one of the only ballads on a knockout album of hard rock jams. A song about a kid with big plans in life.

  • Dream Weaver - Gary Wright

    Gary Wright “In 1972, my friend, George Harrison, invited me to accompany him on a trip to India. A few days before we left, he gave me a copy of the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Needless to say, the book inspired me deeply, and I became totally fascinated with Indian culture and philosophy.”


  • Talking in Your Sleep - the Romantics

    The biggest hit of the Romantics. The background of the song is that the singer learns about all his lover’s secrets while she sleeps… which happens to be a lot of nice things about the singer.

  • Silent Lucidity by Queensryche

    Geoff Tate said: “I love that song. I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful piece. And although I didn’t write it, I had a lot to do with shaping the destiny of that track through my melodic contributions and the way I sang it, and also in the mixing of the song and that kind of thing.”

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