By The Sleepy Lagoon

Album: Coates: By the Sleepy Lagoon (1930)
Play Video


  • Eric Coates (August 27, 1886 - December 21, 1957) was an English composer of light music. A founding member of the Performing Rights Society, he was one of the first composers to earn more from performance fees than sheet-music sales. This slow waltz is one of his best-known works.
  • From the 1920s, Coates's contract with his publishers, Chappell, stipulated that each year he produce one 15-minute and one five-minute orchestral work as well as five songs. He wrote "By The Sleepy Lagoon" in 1930, inspired by a view of Bognor Regis from Selsey.
  • A decade later, American songwriter Jack Lawrence added lyrics with Coates' approval. The resulting song, "Sleepy Lagoon," became a #1 hit for bandleader Harry James in 1942. Other versions were recorded by the likes of Dinah Shore, David Rose, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and later, Doris Day and The Platters.
  • The tune has been the theme music to BBC Radio 4's long-running series Desert Island Discs since its first transmission in 1942. Eric Coates appeared on the show as its guest castaway in 1951.
  • An anachronistic overdub of wailing herring gulls accompanies the Desert Island Discs theme music. They were replaced in 1964 with tropical birds after viewers complained that the gulls wouldn't be native to a desert island. But the seagulls were sorely missed, and they returned a few months later after another batch of peeved letters. You can't please everyone!
  • Tommy Dorsey's version of "Sleepy Lagoon" notably appeared in Woody Allen's 1977 Oscar-winning movie Annie Hall.
  • Coates' other works used in the media include:

    "The London Suite" (1933). The BBC used the last movement, "Knightsbridge," to introduce their radio program In Town Tonight.

    "Halcyon Days" (1941) is the first movement of the suite "The Three Elizabeths." The BBC used it as the theme to the popular 1967 TV series The Forsyte Saga.

    "The Dambusters March" (1954). Coates wrote his famous march just days before producers contacted him to score the whole movie.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Bob Daisley

Bob DaisleySongwriter Interviews

Bob was the bass player and lyricist for the first two Ozzy Osbourne albums. Here's how he wrote songs like "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" with Ozzy and Randy Rhoads.

Holly Knight ("The Best," "Love Is A Battlefield")

Holly Knight ("The Best," "Love Is A Battlefield")Songwriter Interviews

Holly Knight talks about some of the hit songs she wrote, including "The Warrior," "Never" and "The Best," and explains some songwriting philosophy, including how to think of a bridge.

The End Of The Rock Era

The End Of The Rock EraSong Writing

There are no more rock stars - the last one died in 1994.


RamonesFact or Fiction

A band so baffling, even their names were contrived. Check your score in the Ramones version of Fact or Fiction.

80s Music Quiz 1

80s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

MTV, a popular TV theme song and Madonna all show up in this '80s music quiz.

Dan Reed

Dan ReedSongwriter Interviews

Dan cracked the Top 40 with "Ritual," then went to India and spent 2 hours with the Dalai Lama.