After its release in 1968 by Cass Elliot with The Mamas and the Papas, the song was covered a few months later by Anita Harris and more than 40 other versions followed. These included the Mills Brothers, Sylvie Vartan, Henry Mancini, The Beautiful South, Anne Murray, Erasure and Michael Buble among others (see: List of recorded versions).
The song was adapted from lyrics by Gus Kahn. The melody was composed by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt, who worked in the same band at the time. Schwandt claimed he wrote the song during a 10-minute break at a gig in Paw Paw, Michigan, although some sources claim it was written in Milwaukee.
Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition is famous for its understatement and subtle wordplay. Her voice carries the tune with ease and the listener almost doesn’t realize that she’s singing. She sings of “sweet dreams till sunbeams find you” with a touch of melancholy.
The song appears on her first album with Louis Armstrong, Cheek to Cheek. The set includes a live recording from a radio show with Bing Crosby joining in and two numbers recorded at the Hollywood Bowl jazz concert in 1956. Jazz greats like Oscar Peterson, Buddy Rich and Herb Ellis also appear on the album.
Other popular versions include the version by Bob Dylan on his 1971 album Highway 61 Revisited and the version by Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie on their 1950s album Ella and Louis. The song has been used as the theme for several television shows and movies. In Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3D, Miss Piggy performs a loosely parodied version of the song as a lullaby to the character Allie, played by Katie Sagona. ella fitzgerald dream a little dream of me