Sleep Song #1: “When You Dream” by Barenaked Ladies

There are countless songs containing sleep as a theme. From time to time I will showcase some of my more favorite sleep-related or sleep-flavored songs for your enjoyment!

I’ve been a Barenaked Ladies fan for the past twenty years or so. I love their clever lyrics, hook-filled melodies, and frenetic, spontaneous, audience-centric live shows. Plus, their bassist, Jim Creeggan, is an absolute badass on standup bass. I highly recommend their live performances.  I’ve seen them numerous times.  The show that stands out in my memory most was one held in a teeny club in Northampton, Massachusetts, circa 1996. In between songs Ed Robertson called a couple up to the front, and the guy proposed to his girlfriend on stage. While she stood there silent and mortified, the guys in the band all leaned in to hear her response, and they came up with a song in which they chanted something like, “Will she say yes?” Finally she accepted the proposal, and the band busted into a speed-metal vamp, screaming their on-the-spot chorus, “She said yes!” over and over while the crowd went nuts.

So this song, “When You Dream,” is a great tune near the end of their 1999 album Stunt. The singer imagines what his infant boy is thinking about while he dreams peacefully. It’s a wonderfully crafted piece, conjuring many of those fuzzy, fanciful images we think of when we try to recall our dreams.

There is much we do not understand about rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, but REM sleep and dreaming are the focus of very intense sleep medicine research at the moment. I will write more about dreaming in a future post. We know REM sleep has restorative effects and has some role to play in things such as memory consolidation. However, there are still many mysteries yet to be unlocked.

Enjoy!  I can’t find an official video, but click above to hear the song.

Here are the Barenaked Ladies song lyrics (written by Ed Robertson and Steven Page, copyright Warner/Chappell Music):

With life just begun
My sleeping new son
Has eyes that roll back in his head
They flutter and dart
He slows down his heart
And pictures a world past his bed
Its hard to believe
As I watch you breathe
Your mind drifts and weaves
When you dream
What do you dream about
When you dream
What do you dream about
Do you dream about music
Or mathematics
Or planets too far for the eye?
Do you dream about Jesus
Or quantum mechanics
Or angels who sing lullabyes?
His fontanelle pulses
With lives that he’s lived
With memories he’ll learn to ignore
And when it is closed
He already knows
Hes forgotten all he knew before
But when sleep sets in
History begins
But the future will win
When you dream
What do you dream about?
When you dream
What do you dream about?
Are they colored or black and white
Yiddish or English or languages not yet conceived?
Are they silent or boisterous?
Do you hear noises
Just loud enough to be perceived?
Do you hear Del Shannon’s “Runaway”
Playing on transistor radio waves?
With so little experience
You might not get cognizant
Are you wise beyond your few days?
When you dream
What do you dream about?
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