There are many great reasons to love old jazz standards as lullabies, but one of my favorites is that they were written at a more innocent time and don’t have any of the thorny sex references that can make modern pop songs less appropriate for young children. Plus, they’re often more melodically sophisticated than modern pop tunes, so they make for great sing-alongs. The only downside is that they can sometimes sound a bit too earnest, but the melody of this song and the way Ella Fitzgerald sings it balance that out perfectly.
“Dream a Little Dream of Me” was originally recorded in 1930 by the bandleader and ’50s sitcom star Ozzie Nelson, who also starred in his own show, The Ozzie and Harriet Show. The lyrics were by Gus Kahn, and the music was written by Fabian Andre and Wilber Schwandt. Schwandt once recalled that the pair wrote it in a 10-minute break at a gig in Paw Paw, Michigan.
The song enjoyed its highest chart success in 1968, when it was covered by Cass Elliot with the Mamas and the Papas, followed the same year by a version by Anita Harris. Harris’ single would maintain a lower chart presence throughout the ascendancy of the Cass version, peaking at #33 the week after it peaked at #11 on the UK Singles Chart.
This song was also sung by the character Allie on the American TV show Glee, and was heard in the 2010 movie Farscape when it was played on Victor Creel’s radio to soothe his daughter. In addition, the song has been performed in concert by various artists, including Pete Doherty and Carl Barat of the Libertines, singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel at fashion designer Erin Fetherston’s 2007 show, and jazz singer and coloratura soprano Sumi Jo for her classical crossover album released in Korea. ella fitzgerald dream a little dream of me