A dream is defined as a series of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations. The same definition can be applied to a song, a product of the mind and the imagination. There is little wonder then why so many great songs are intertwined with the concept of dreams.
A dream can stem from a place of happiness, peace, and love. However, dreams can also be filled with fear and anxiety.
Dreams are often experienced during sleep, a byproduct of our subconscious. However, we sometimes catch ourselves daydreaming, wide-awake, yet the mind has taken us elsewhere, much like the effect of our favorite songs.
It’s no wonder there are a lot of famous songs written about dreams. So, let’s look at the top 23 songs about dreams.
Whether the music is country, folk, pop, or heavy metal, songs about dreams are as popular now as they have ever been. Here are some of the greatest ever recorded.
1. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & the Papas
The Mamas and the Papas were a folk-rock band based in Los Angeles known for their mellow harmonies. Despite only being together as a group for four years, they produced some of the most unforgettable songs of the late 1960s and became a symbol of the counterculture movement of the day.
“California Dreamin’” came to John Phillips on a cold, wintry night while living in New York City. His wife Michelle had wanted to move to the warmth of California, but John believed the music scene was in New York. He shook Michelle awake to help him write one of the most iconic songs of the 60s. They moved to L.A. soon after.
2. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 release Rumours is highly regarded as one of the best rock albums of all time, producing Top 10 hits “Don’t Stop,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “You Make Lovin’ Fun.” But it was “Dreams” that would become Fleetwood Mac’s only number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100.
“Dreams” was written by Stevie Nicks during a tumultuous time for members of Fleetwood Mac. Personal relationships were frayed, and couples were separating. Nicks captures the mood during this time with the song, remembering love lost and “dreams of loneliness.”
3. Dreamer – Supertramp
Supertramp was an English prog-rock band formed in 1969 and broke out with their third studio album, Crime of the Century, in 1974. “Dreamer” was the first single, with “Bloody Well Right” on the B-side. “Dreamer” would hit number one in Canada, but the B-side charted better in the United States.
Written by Roger Hodgson when he was 19, he was admittedly at the time a dreamer. Hodgson said the song came to him the first time he played a Wurlitzer piano at his mother’s house.
“Dreamer” is about having big dreams but not quite being able to achieve them. However, the song turned out to be the beginning of achieving the band’s dreams.
4. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics
When they left the band The Tourists, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart became a pop duo, the Eurythmics. Their second album, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), spawned the title track that would see them ride the MTV wave to international success. The song reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Lennox and Stewart were in a romantic relationship as members of The Tourists. They split up as a couple, but the connection through their music formed a different type of partnership.
“Sweet Dreams” was written following a bitter argument between the two. The song is about the search for fulfillment, the ups and downs of a relationship, and the need to “keep your head up.”
5. Daydream Believer – The Monkees
Originally written by John Stewart of the Kingston Trio, “Daydream Believer” was recorded by The Monkees and hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967. The song made a resurgence in 1979, hitting the charts when Canadian singer Anne Murray recorded it.
The song is about a couple in love waking up in the morning and facing another day. They don’t have much money and don’t need much if they have each other. The pop song is uplifting and hopeful in an attempt to cheer up his sleepy homecoming queen.
6. Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
One of the all-time great driving songs is “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The song was the second single released from his debut solo studio album, Full Moon Fever, in 1989.
The song alludes to hitting the open road, seeing where it takes you, and knowing that something good awaits when you find it. Petty suggests that even though the dream may be a mystery, the freedom of chasing it feels right, wherever it leads.
7. Enter Sandman – Metallica
Not all songs about dreams need to have ‘dream’ in the title. And in this case, the dream may be more of a nightmare. Heavy metal group Metallica released “Enter Sandman” on their 1991 self-titled album and gained international success, selling more than 30 million copies.
In traditional folklore, the Sandman would sprinkle sand over children’s eyes to bring on sleep and pleasant dreams.
Metallica imagines a child getting ready for bed, saying his prayers, but then having nightmares. The pounding tempo of the song feels like your heart is beating faster as you “sleep with one eye open gripping your pillow tight.”
8. All I Have To Do Is Dream – The Everly Brothers
The Everly Brothers, with their mellow acoustic sound and close harmony singing, pioneered country rock in the 1950s. They would significantly influence future stars of the ‘60s, including The Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel.
In 1957 and 1958, the Everly Brothers had a string of hits with “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream.” The latter is a mellow love song pining for the singer’s true love. Anytime he wants to hold her tight or kiss her lips, all he has to do is “drea-ea-ea-ea-eam.”
9. I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) – The Electric Prunes
The Electric Prunes were an experimental psychedelic rock band of the 1960s in step with their contemporaries Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Chocolate Watchband. The Prunes were active in the Los Angeles area from 1965 to 1970.
“I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” is a song about a dream so vivid, so real, then comes the dawn, and it all disappears. The singer dreams of a woman; he can smell her perfume, feel her touch, and see her eyes filled with love. The song conveys the disappointment of waking up and finding she is gone and that it was all just a dream.
10. American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The 1988 album American Dream was the second studio album in which Neil Young recorded with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash. In the early ‘70s, CSNY was looked upon as a beacon for the anti-war movement.
Young wrote the title track with a tongue-in-cheek look at what constitutes the American Dream in the 1980s. Political scandal, sex, money, under the scrutiny of the paparazzi—how exactly did the American Dream “so good, go bad, so fast?”
11. Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream) – Roy Orbison
With his dark sunglasses dressed in all black, Roy Orbison had a distinct style that matched his unique singing voice. He scored Top 10 hits in the early 1960s with “Only the Lonely,” “Crying,” and “Oh, Pretty Woman.”
Orbison’s “Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)” reached number two in the UK and number four in the US with its upbeat, country-rockabilly sound. The singer pines for his woman, lamenting that he can only dream about her night and day. Only by being with him can she end his lonely dreams.
12. You Make My Dreams (Come True) – Hall & Oates
Daryl Hall and John Oates formed a pop duo that enjoyed great success with their fusion of rock & roll and rhythm & blues throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980.
Hall & Oates developed a successful formula that saw 29 of their 33 singles chart on the Top 40. “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” is a song that fits the mold. It is an upbeat, poppy love song, praising the woman for being able to make his world right and that he’s been dreaming of someone like her his entire life.
13. Dream On – Aerosmith
From their 1973 debut album, Aerosmith, lead singer Steven Tyler wrote “Dream On,” the power ballad that would put the band on the rock and roll map. The single received massive airplay on the rock stations in their hometown of Boston.
‘Dream On’ was written by Tyler when he was still in his teens, years before the formation of Aerosmith. It is about “dreaming until your dreams come true,” and it also speaks to how time passes us by quickly. You must go after your dreams, for you never know when “the good Lord will take you away.”
14. Wildest Dreams – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s 2014 release 1989 spawned five singles to chart in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and three number-one hits. It marked a shift from her country roots into a more synth-pop sound.
“Wildest Dreams” peaked at number five. Swift sings about a handsome man that is all wrong for her and that she can see the end of the relationship before it begins. However, she is willing to take the plunge, hoping that he will remember her, even if only in his wildest dreams.
15. These Dreams – Heart
Long-time Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin and singer-songwriter Martin Page co-wrote “These Dreams” in 1985. The song was initially offered to Stevie Nicks, but she declined to record it. However, the rock band Heart liked it and decided to include it on their self-titled album of that same year.
It is a good thing they did. The power ballad was Heart’s first number-one single to top the Billboard Hot 100. The lyrics take you inside the dream itself. Every time you close your eyes, you live a second life. Dreaming is a way to escape life’s difficult situations.
16. Just a Dream – Carrie Underwood
Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Carrie Underwood exploded onto the scene after winning the fourth season of American Idol in 2005. She was the only country artist with a single to debut atop the Billboard Hot 100.
Her song, “Just a Dream,” is from her second album Carnival Ride released in 2008. It is a sad tale of a woman who goes to church in her wedding dress, but it is for her husband’s funeral. He was killed in battle, and she is presented with the ceremonial folded flag. The singer laments that she does not want to believe this is happening and begs for it all to be a dream.
17. Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
Alternative rock band Green Day released their fourth studio album, American Idiot, in 2004. The single, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and was ranked by Rolling Stone’s Reader’s Choice as the number one song of the decade.
“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a concept album following the life of Jesus of Suburbia. The song is one of loneliness, chasing a dream but being disappointed when it does not play out as expected. The move to a big city has so much promise, but you end up walking the street alone, your shadow your only companion.
18. Only in Dreams – Weezer
From their 1994 self-titled debut album, Weezer’s “Only in Dreams” is the longest track ever recorded by the band at eight minutes. The album was produced by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek and went triple-platinum in 1995.
The song alludes to a young man who wants to be with the girl of his affection but can only fantasize about being with her in his dreams. “But when we wake, it’s all been erased.” According to the band, the song is a metaphor for their artistic process.
19. All of These Dreams – Phish
Phish is a jam band formed in Burlington, Vermont, in 1983. They have a Grateful Dead-like following, putting on extended performances of music that blend progressive rock, folk, reggae, country, blues, electronic music, and pop.
‘All of These Dreams’ is on Phish’s tenth studio album, Round Room, released in 2002. It contains trippy lyrics about a cave on a mountaintop where you hide away all of your dreams that never get revealed. There is a danger of getting lost in one’s dreams, “such is the promise, such is the curse.”
20. Caught In a Dream – Alice Cooper
Known for his outrageous shock-rock stage performances, Alice Cooper played on the concept of dreams and nightmares throughout his career. His third album, Love It To Death, was released in 1971 with the opening track, “Caught In a Dream.”
“Caught In a Dream” reflects the “be careful what you wish for” adage. Chasing one’s dreams of wealth and success may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. The “success smell” Cooper refers to ends up with the line, “What I thought was heaven turned out to be hell.”
21. In Dreams – Roy Orbison
Released in 1963, Roy Orbison’s album, In Dreams, is almost a dream concept album. It includes the title track as well as “Dream,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have To Do Is Dream.”
“In Dreams” is a song about the woman you love, but you only see her in your dreams. Then, you awake to find her gone and remember that she said goodbye. With Orbison’s three-octave voice, he can take the listener to another place, like we are the one having the dream.
22. Dream Operator – Talking Heads
The Talking Heads formed in New York City in 1975 and took the punk scene by storm. By the early ‘80s, they had helped pioneer new wave music with their fusion of punk, funk, and alternative rock.
“Dream Operator” appears on the Talking Heads’ 1986 True Stories release. The lyrics suggest that the person in the song is in control of their dreams. Be careful not to wake up, or the dream will come true. Frontman David Byrne sings, “Every dream tells it all, and this dream is your story.”
23. Dreamer – Ozzy Osbourne
Known as the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne came to prominence as the lead singer of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath in the early 1970s. He would go on to have a successful solo career and eventually become a reality television star.
Ozzy’s song “Dreamer” is a rock ballad not typical of his heavier songs. He sings of being a dreamer, dreaming of better days when humanity is not abusing Mother Nature. He dreams about the day we can all get along and end all of the hate, anger, and bigotry. Who knew Ozzy had such an insightful, sensitive side?
It is clear that artists are, by nature, dreamers. So many great songs have come to a songwriter in a dream.
Dreams are created in our subconscious, a product of our imagination. You can go anywhere, do anything, and be anything in a dream. The best songs about dreams are the ones that can take us there.