Dreams, Pop Songs, and Joe Hill

And speaking of dreams…

It’s always bugged me a little that, when pop songs and folk songs talk about dreams, they never sound like any dream I’ve ever had. No blogging about atheist plumbing; no shoe store run by the Museum of Modern Art; no evil balloon animals trying to kill my girlfriend. No surrealism at all. Dreams in pop songs and folk song are almost always ridiculously straightforward. “I dreamed that the girl I had a crush on was dating me.” “I dreamed that my ex and I were back together.” “I dreamed that a dead labor leader was giving me advice about life.”

Okay — that last one is pretty surreal, now that I think about it.

Anyway, I was thinking about what a folk or pop song would be like if it were about actual dreams. And I haven’t shared a song parody here in a while — and this is one of my favorites. Hence the following. (To the tune of “Joe Hill” by Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson, popularized by Joan Baez.)

Joe Hill
by Greta Christina

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
In my old high school hall
He asked about my big math test
And bounced a bright red ball
And bounced a bright red ball.

“I spaced out on my math test, Joe
I’m going to fail,” said I.
Then we were in my living room
And Joe began to fly
And Joe began to fly.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
He looked just like my dad
I offered him a hard-boiled egg
But Joe just looked real sad
But Joe just looked real sad.

(Next week: “Suzanne.”)

Other posts in this series:
Super Geek

Dreams, Pop Songs, and Joe Hill
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5 thoughts on “Dreams, Pop Songs, and Joe Hill

  1. 3

    I always thought the “clouds in my coffee” line in “You’re So Vain” had more to do with the def. of dreams as wishful thinking than sleeptime phenomena. Specifically, dreams about the life she wanted with the guy who “gave away the things [he] loved,” one of which was the singer.
    So IMHO, the “coffee” represents a kind of clear-eyed reality, whereas her “dreams” are wishful thinking that turned out to be “clouds in [her] coffee” (disillusionment or confusion, methinks).
    – Nice bit of depersonalization, lumping herself in with the guy’s “things.” I think it underscores the guy’s smooth or shallow character. So is she being outraged, or just snarky? Both, methinks.
    – Even the phrase “gave away” has a multiple meaning: betrayed, revealed, divorced, swapped for another, or…? Here again, the song works on more than one level, and that’s part of what makes it great.
    Ever notice how trying to interpret a song is like trying to interpret a dream? 😉

  2. 4

    Loved this-I’ve been trying to train myself out of ‘for a reason’ thinking. While reading I think I had a breakthru-everything *can* happen for a reason, but it’s my job to create the reason in the future- the Project Runway version would be: ‘I’m going to take what I learned and become a better designer’
    On another note, Boiled in Lead’s Army (Dream Song) is quite surrealistic-“…So I found the first Lieutenant, he said ‘god they’re gonna bomb us from their vicious flying llamas.’ I dove into the bomb shelter, I became Charlotte Corday and the battle fell away. And the peace that reigned in upper dreamland was badly negated when the giant slugs invaded…” It’s a very good song.

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