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Darin wrote this song, which is about a guy who wishes and prays for the girl of his dreams to come to him so that he doesn't have to dream any more - or as he puts it in his grammatically incorrect but lyrically - no more. Darin wasn't so sure of the song when he demoed it for his bosses at Atlantic Records, but it became a huge hit and earned him more creative control as a songwriter and artist - his next single was the unlikely "Mack The Knife
," which stayed at #1 in the US for 9 weeks. In the '90s, Darin was inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
"Dream Lover" appealed to adults who appreciated the conservative lyrics and Darin's wholesome image - he came off as a guy you wouldn't mind dating your daughter at a time when Elvis was singing "A Big Hunk O' Love." Most songs that pulled this off were written by New York songwriters and crafted for mass appeal, but Darin managed to compose his own song securing his teen idol image. He was 22 when the song was released.
Neil Sedaka played piano on this track, and also the B-side of the single, which was a song called "Bullmoose." Sedaka had a song on the charts called "The Diary," but was not yet widely known as a solo artist. Along with his songwriting partner Howard Greenfield, he had written "Keep a Walkin'," which Darin recorded in 1958. Darin was comfortable with Sedaka's style, and gave him the leeway to play what he thought was right for the track.
Musically, this song was built on a Latin dance rhythm. Darin said of writing it: "I had just discovered the C-Am-F-G7 progression on the piano. I stretched them out and I like the space I felt in there, and the words just flowed."
Rick Nelson released an intimate, countrified version of this song shortly after performing it when he was the musical guest and host of a 1979 episode of Saturday Night Live. The single was re-released in 1986 a few months after Nelson died in a plane crash.
Darin found his dream lover a year after this song was released when he married the actress Sandra Dee, a union that would last until 1967.
Other artists to record this song include Don McLean, Dion, Johnny Nash and Tony Orlando. Mariah Carey had a #1 hit with a different song with the same title
, although hers was rendered "Dreamlover."
Darin performed this on his first Ed Sullivan Show appearance on May 31, 1959. He made five more appearances on the show.
Rich Podolsky's book Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear
tells the story of how Darin introduced this song to Don Kirshner and Al Nevins, producers of the then-newly-formed Aldon Music. Kirshner and Darin were lifelong friends, having teamed up in their teen years before either one of them got their first break, having been best man at each other's weddings, and after Darin's tragically early death, Kirshner named his daughter Daryn after him. So when Darin made it big before Kirshner got established, he promised that he wouldn't leave Kirshner behind.
So a few weeks after Darin's new contract at Atlantic Records forced him to let Kirshner go as his manager, he dropped by Aldon Music to give them a preview of "Dream Lover," along with "Queen of the Hop." Kirshner relates that Darin sang it "as if he were performing it at the Copacabana nightclub." Afterwards he couldn't wait to tell Al Nevins about it.
This song made one more trip to the Hot 100 when the girl group The Paris Sisters ("I Love How You Love Me
") took it to #91 in 1964.