35 Best Songs about Dreams and Dreaming

Whether you believe what the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, said about dreams (that they’re your subconscious at work) or whether you brush them off as meaningless, dreams and dreaming are one of life’s big mysteries.

No surprise then that the topic of dreams and nightmares crops up a lot in songs. Of course, many songs aren’t about nocturnal dreams, but about the longings and desires we have.

So here’s our list of the best songs about dreams and dreaming ever recorded. Enjoy.

“In Dreams” by Roy Orbison

Have you ever woken from a dream wishing it was true? It’s the worst feeling ever! In the protagonist’s dream, he walks and talks, and his girl is his “all the time.” But alas, just before dawn, he awakes, and she’s gone. It’s a song about missing someone, where the only place you can find them is in a dream world. It’s a gorgeous piece of music and a real heartbreaker, too. The song was also featured in David Lynch’s brilliant surrealist movie, “Blue Velvet”.

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by Eurythmics

Released in 1983, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” became a breakthrough hit in the new wave music genre. With its catchy melody, the lyrics were apparently inspired by a difficult time in vocalist Annie Lennox’s life when her previous band, The Tourists, broke up. Lennox explained that the song is about the search for fulfillment and the desires that motivate us.

“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac

“Dreams” appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s classic album Rumours. The band, which included two couples (Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, John and Christine McVie), were both going through a breakup during the sessions (yes, both!). Drummer Mick Fleetwood was also divorcing his wife, Jenny Boyd. Despite all the tension, they surprisingly came up with some of their best material.

“And Dream Of Sheep” by Kate Bush

There is a seven-track concept piece called ‘The Ninth Wave’ on side two of Kate Bush’s 1995 album, Hounds Of Love. The first part, “And Dream Of Sheep”, is about the terrifying predicament of being alone at sea, floating, with no one to help you. The protagonist is desperate to sleep ‘and dream of sheep.’ She tells herself she’ll “wake up to any sound of engines” – but she knows falling asleep in water isn’t a great idea, even with a life jacket on. Tomes have been written about just how good ‘The Ninth Wave’ is (I recall Bret Anderson of the band Suede, among others, waxing lyrical about it on a documentary about the album). Bush redid the song for her 2016 live album ‘Before The Dawn’. To recreate the feeling of being alone at sea, the vocals were recorded while she floated in a huge water tank at Pinewood Studios.

“I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles

“I’m Only Sleeping” was John Lennon’s tribute to staying in bed, appearing on The Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver. This isn’t a song about laziness. Instead, it was Lennon’s commentary on the hectic pace of the world and his preference to stay in bed “keeping an eye on the world going by my window” and drift off into the land of nod.

Recommended: Our list of songs about sleeping.

“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” by The Smiths

Morrissey is no stranger to staying in bed (check out his song “Spent the Day in Bed” from his 2017 album Low in High School for a more recent appreciation). In this one, which appeared on The Smiths’ final album Strangeways Here We Come, we see Morrissey lamenting that nobody loves him. Plenty of people love this song, including David Bowie, who said in a 1992 Q Magazine interview that it was his favorite Smiths song. The album version of the song starts with two minutes of noise from the 1984-85 miners’ strike. They were protesting against the closing of the coal mines, which tore apart communities, especially in the north of England, where The Smiths were from (Manchester).

“After the Gold Rush” by Neil Young

One of Young’s most unusual songs sees Young take to the piano. We see Young in environmentalist mode, singing about a dream (almost like a biblical vision) he’s had about the fate of the human race. We’ve “got mother nature on the run,” and we’ll need to take mother nature’s seed “to a new home in the sun.” It was quite a departure from his earlier music and was meant to accompany a movie (featuring Dean Stockwell) that never saw the light of day. Nevertheless, the song went on to become a significant moment in Young’s discography.

“Daysleeper” by R.E.M.

Ever worked a night shift and seen what it does to your body clock? You turn into a nocturnal animal, like a bat, sleep all day and work all night. It’s the lifestyle of rock and roll stars, security guards, or, in the case of this song, international share traders. The band resonated with this nocturnal life. In the liner notes for their greatest hits compilation In Time, guitarist Peter Buck said, “After all the years we’ve been a band, the one thing I know we have in common is that we stay up all night and sleep in the day.”

“Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House

A catchy pop song, with a surprising number of Beatles’ pop trivia in the lyrics. Even the title “Don’t Dream It’s Over” appears to be a reference to the line in John Lennon’s song ‘God’ where Lennon announces the dream is over: “The dream is over, what can I say? The dream is over, Yesterday.” “There is freedom within, there is freedom without” – Is that a nod to Harrison’s “Within You Without You”? “Catch the deluge in a paper cup” – a nod to Lennon’s “Across the Universe”? “In the paper today” – a nod to “Did you read the news today” from “A Day in the Life”?

“A Head Full of Dreams” by Coldplay

From Coldplay’s poppy period characterized by disco / experimental grooves, “A Head Full of Dreams” is a positive powerhouse of a pop song with inspirational lyrics. The words (and the album of the same name it comes from) are all – according to a Chris Martin interview in Rolling Stone – quite ‘hippy.’ They’re about imagined possibilities and realizing the fantastic world before your very eyes: “Oh, I think I’ve landed, in a world I hadn’t seen.” Chris Martin called this his “favorite Coldplay song ever” in Entertainment Weekly.

“#9 Dream” by John Lennon

Lennon had an obsession with the number 9 throughout his life, and the number cropped up in various songs, e.g., “Revolution 9”. He was also prone to making up total gibberish lyrics with no meaning whatsoever. One such example is in the reprise of this song: “Ah bowakawa, posse, posse.” Other significant “9 related trivia”: He was born October 9 (his son Sean also shared the same birthday), his first home was 9 Newcastle Road, his first Beatles gig was on February 9, 1961 at The Cavern Club. This song, ironically, peaked at #9 on the US Hot 100.

“Daydreaming” by Radiohead

Another form of dreaming less talked about is “Daydreaming.” Here, singer Thom Yorke lamented his split from Rachel Owen in this eerie piano ballad. Yorke sings that because of his tendency to retreat to an inner world, the relationship has deteriorated beyond the point of no return, and it’s “too late, the damage is done”. In the outro, Yorke sings “half of my life,” a reference to the length of time he was in a relationship with Rachel Owen. Yorke was 46 when they split after 23 years of dating.

Recommended: Our list of Radiohead’s best work.

“Only In Dreams” by Weezer

Weezer’s self-titled brilliant debut album features this as the 10th and final track. It appears that the guy in the song wants to be with a girl. But, unfortunately, he can’t in real life, so he can only dream about her. In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo said most of their audience thought the song was about a girl. But, “I’m really singing about my artistic process,” he admits. The track is most notable for its three-minute crescendo of the two guitars, bass, and drums, in which the dynamics gradually increase to a climaxing guitar solo at the end. Gotta love it.

Recommended: Our pick of Weezer’s top tracks.

“40 Day Dream” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

Alex Ebert (a.k.a. Edward Sharpe) and the Magnetic Zeros make a unique blend of acoustic music. This track is their second most popular track (according to Spotify ratings – their first is the brilliant ‘Home’ that we included on our list of home songs). ’40 Day Dream’ brings gorgeous harmonies, punchy percussion, handclaps (of course), and an infectious chorus that takes you back to Southern California. The “magical mystery” lyric is reminiscent of the Beatles in their psychedelic pomp.

“Bob Dylan’s Dream” by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is no stranger to the topic of dreams. Especially in his earlier recordings. This one – “Bob Dylan’s Dream” – from his 1963 landmark The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album is particularly good. The song talks about the passing of time. Here we see the master storyteller at work. He starts: “while riding on a train goin’ west, I fell asleep for to take my rest. I dreamed a dream that made me sad, concerning myself and the first few friends I had”. Dylan then reminisces about those innocent days of youth when he and his friends would be “jokin’ and talkin’ about the world outside.” Now those days are gone, and he wishes in vain that “he could sit simply in that room again.”

“Flying Dream” 143 by Elbow

This short, peculiar dream song is a funny dream writer Guy Garvey had. The reference of ’15 stone’ is his own weight (‘stone’ is a unit of weight still used in the UK. 15 Stone is equivalent to 210 lbs or 95 kgs). When you understand this, the line “And how all fifteen stone flew to you, I don’t know” takes on a whole new meaning. What’s the significance of 143? Well, coincidence or not, 143 can be construed to mean ‘I Love You’ (there are 1, 4, and 3 letters in the words, respectively.)

“Fever Dream” by Iron and Wine

Here we have a great song from Iron and Wine’s first album, Our Endless Numbered Days. You can never 100% of the time understand what another person is thinking –especially when it’s another person you’re romantically involved with. You sense that frustration in this song. The protagonist looks at his lover while she sleeps: “Sometimes I’d like just to ask her, what honest words, she can’t afford to say.” Regardless of how close we come to the people we love, we can’t always say everything we want or understand everything they think.

“I Will Dream” by Emmylou Harris

From her album Stumble Into Grace, “I Will Dream” is a song about unrequited love and one of those perfect country songs. The protagonist loves a man whose ‘heart began to wander.’ But, she assures him that all those girls with their ‘sweet soft, warm caresses, cannot hold you like I do.’ She’s keeping a candle lit for this guy, but honestly, I think she’s better off ditching this scumbag and starting afresh!

Recommended: Check out our list of songs about starting over if you’re in this boat.

“Sleepwalkin’” by Modest Mouse

“Sleep Walk” is a cover of a ’50s song of the same name by brothers Santo and Johnny. It prominently features a steel guitar and was the last instrumental to hit number 1 in the 1950s. Modest Mouse added lyrics and turned it into something completely different, which works perfectly against the dreamy ’50s chord progression (the guitar work is straight out of the Johnny Marr book of guitar riffs, no surprise he went on to join them). The words are pure teenager-in-love-in-the-summertime. They’re about being infatuated with a girl, a feeling most of us guys will remember. There’s some gorgeous imagery, too: ‘raiding the liquor cabinet and going down to the riverbank.’

Recommended: Our curated list of Modest Mouse classics.

“I Could Be Dreaming” by Belle & Sebastian

The song is about courage and being willing to do things in real life that you dream of doing. People picture themselves doing heroic things, but it’s not often that this happens due to fear or anxiety. The song is saying that it’s important to stand up for what you believe in.

“All I Have to Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers

Along with Bobby Darin’s ‘Dream Lover’, this is one of the most famous songs about dreams, period. This ’50s classic sold over a million copies and was performed on Ed Sullivan’s show in April of 1958. It was written by Boudleaux Bryant, one half of the hitmaking writing team that wrote “Bye, Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie.” The Everly Brothers’ unique vocal harmony was supported by an interesting musical backing provided by the legendary guitarist Chet Atkins.

Recommended: More dreamy Everly Brothers’ hits.

“Dream Operator” by Talking Heads

Here’s a profound song from Talking Heads, with a ton of interpretations. From the point of view of someone older, it seems to be reflecting (perhaps even talking to) their younger selves. Whether it’s the younger or older you, the sentiment is clear: You are the sole operator of your personal dreams.

“Just a Dream” by Carrie Underwood

This sad country ballad tells the story of a bride arriving at Church on her wedding day, only to realize instead of getting married, she’s burying her soldier groom. All she’s left with is “a folded up flag” thinking, “what could’ve been.”

“Dream On” by Aerosmith

Aerosmith’s first single, the ballad “Dream On”, was so good it stopped their record company Colombia dropping them. The lyrics are about striving to realize your dreams, with everything against you. Steven Tyler sang in his ‘real’ voice, rather than the lower voice he adopted in later recordings (which he admits was to imitate black artists like James Brown). It’s almost unrecognizable. The chord arrangement Tyler credits as coming from his Dad, a classically trained pianist. A young Tyler would lie under the piano while his Papa played these chords.

“Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift

“Wildest Dreams” begins with Taylor thinking of her partner and how he wants them to escape the high-profile lifestyle and spend time together. But here, Taylor Swift is a realist. She’s done away with thoughts of small-town life (the American dream?). She knows how the relationship will end and wants her partner to remember the moments they shared and keep her in his mind even after their relationship ends. A recording of Taylor Swift’s heartbeat thumps throughout the song. Michael Jackson did the same on 1987’s “Smooth Criminal.”

“Dream” by Imagine Dragons

A quick glance at the newspaper headlines shows that much of the world is in turmoil: wars, famine, climate change, inequality, the mindless pursuit of wealth (which we talk about in our post about money songs). Dreaming about better times might be all we have left. So here, Las Vegas-based indie rockers Imagine Dragons sing, “I wanna dream, leave me to dream.”

“You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oates

“You Make My Dreams Come True” is a song that not only reminds listeners of their dreams but also encourages them to dance. The track is characterized by its sweet and uplifting tone. It was released in 1980 on the duo’s album titled “Voices”.

“Dreaming with a Broken Heart” by John Mayer

John Mayer suggests that waking up is the most challenging part when you’re dreaming with a broken heart. His soulful ballad can assist those who are heartbroken in dealing with their difficult emotions. The song is a melancholic tune about dreams and the various ways they can crumble.

Recommended: Our list of Mayer’s best tracks.

“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas by The Papas

This classic ’60s flower-power tune was inspired by Michelle and John Philips’ homesickness for California while enduring a cold New York winter.

“Enter Sandman” by Metallica

Known for its dark and haunting lyrics that depict a child’s fear of nightmares, “Enter Sandman” is one of Metallica’s defining songs. The song, which portrays the Sandman of European folklore in an ominous light, resonates with many who have experienced unsettling dreams. Despite its eerie theme, the song is, somewhat bizarrely a popular choice for baseball walk-up music!

Recommended: Our pick of the finest Baseball walk-up songs (including this one.)

“Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect” by The Decemberists

Hailing from Oregon, Indie rockers The Decemberists put this out on their Castaways and Cutouts album. It’s a surreal bit of songwriting. Here the protagonist lives several lives, dreaming he’s a soldier in Birkenau, an architect, a Spaniard.

“I Have A Dream” by ABBA

A song by the Swedish supergroup ABBA that’s filled with messages of hope, resilience, and the importance of holding onto aspirations. It reminds listeners to keep dreaming and striving for their goals, regardless of life’s challenges.

“Lucid Dreams” by Juice WRLD

“Lucid Dreams” explores the emotional distress caused by a failed relationship. The song uses the metaphor of lucid dreaming to represent the singer’s mental state, where he is aware of his dreams but cannot stop himself from reliving painful memories.

“Dreams” by The Cranberries

From the band’s debut studio album “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?”, “Dreams” is a song that expresses the surreal, dreamlike quality of love and the joy of finding a perfect match.

“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day

In this indictment of Western culture, vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong is disillusioned with the American Dream. It will probably resonate with anyone who’s had shattered dreams. The song nods to the famous painting by Gottfried Helnwein “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”, depicting Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, and Elvis Presley hanging out in a bar.

Recommended: Green Day’s best tracks.

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Dreamlover” by Mariah Carey
  • “The Dreaming Tree” by Dave Matthews Band

Photo of author

About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

Read more