I was listening to music over the weekend and was struck by the differences in the way the word ‘dream’ was used. I don’t mean the weird things that go through our heads when we’re asleep, but rather the way people use the word to reflect hopes and wishes. A lot of the songs with ‘dream’ in their title seem to me to be about love, and the dreams that people have about the future: how it may be with someone special. And often the songs seem to be about the breakdown of a relationship, or the difficulty of maintaining one and the hopes we have for it. One of the simplest and most beautiful that I know is this from Tim Hardin:


Simple it may be, but the question posed is very deep. I was in my early teens when that song was released, and at that impressionable time of my life I had all the hopes and dreams that we all have. Now, nearly 50 years of alleged wisdom later, I’m not sure that I could answer Hardin’s question any better than I could back then! A variation on this theme can be found in this song by the Cranberries:

I love the ethereal feel to the video, which I think is a perfect match for the lyrics. The merging of ‘my hopes and dreams depend on you’ with ‘you’re a dream to me,’ to the point where the dividing line is indistinguishable, really makes me think about the meaning of life and love. But don’t expect any answers, please (anyway, as all Hitchhiker’s Guide fans will know, the answer is 42!).

Moving into the realm of hopes and dreams, another of my favourites is this Green Day song:

There’s a post-apocalyptic feel to the video which really drives home the message that broken dreams can leave you bereft of hope. Negative? Perhaps, but isn’t that a feeling that we’ve all experienced at some point? I’m not suggesting that Billie Joe Armstrong is an eminent philosopher, but I do think he portrays well the importance of hopes, dreams, ambitions etc for us and the void that remains when they have left us.

Expanding on this theme into a wider context, my final illustration is this one, from Talking Heads (the blank screen periods are deliberate, by the way):

You may know that Talking Heads are from New York, and that City of Dreams is one of the other nicknames for the Big Apple. By taking us on a journey from the past until now, the lyrics encapsulate the timelessness and continuity of dreams, in the sense of a vision for life now and in the future. They have always been there and always will be. The version I’ve shared with you is compiled by Idle No More, a protest movement started by native Canadians in December 2012 against indiscriminate and destructive legislation, which would otherwise destroy heritage and environment in the name of progress. I think the song fits this perfectly, and if you want to know more about the movement, their website is here. Take a look at some of their videos: their flashmobs are good!

In a short time I appear to have moved some way from my starting point. Or have I? Maybe not, as Tim Hardin’s question is universal: in whatever context, how exactly do we hang onto our dreams?