Song of the Day, June 13: Dream A Little Dream of Me by Mama Cass Elliot
June 13, 2016 Leave a comment
Today’s song is an 30s dance tune that launched a 60s pop solo career. Composers Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt wrote Dream A Little Dream of Me with lyricist Gus Kahn in 1931. It was first recorded as an up-tempo number by Ozzie Nelson later that year. Over the years, dozens of artists recorded similar versions, including Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, and Dinah Shore.
The Mamas & the Papas regularly performed the song at their live shows. Michelle Phillips’ father had been friends with composer Andre. Cass Elliot suggested that the group record the song for their fourth album. Wanting to remove the campiness from the standard approach, she tried something new.
I tried to sing it like it was 1943 and somebody had just come in and said, “Here’s a new song.” I tried to sing it as if it were the first time.
The approach worked, and her dreamy, restrained approach was much better suited to the meditative lyrics of absent love. After the album’s first single stiffed, Dunhill released the track, crediting it to “Mama Cass with the Mamas and the Papas”. That was the last straw for the frustrated group, which disintegrated as the song moved up the chart (peaking at #12). Elliot and producer John Simon re-recorded the song as the opening title track for her wonderful solo debut.
Elliot’s biggest solo hit, its quieter approach became the new standard, used by most of the more than 40 artists who have recorded the song over the decades.
Enjoy this wonderful song today.