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"Dream On": 7 Facts About Aerosmith's Classic Song | GRAMMY Hall Of Fame
"Sing with me, sing for the years/Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears/Sing with me, just for today/Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away."
Though Aerosmith have mined a catalog full of rock and roll gems, including "Walk This Way," "Janie's Got A Gun," "Sweet Emotion," and "Love In An Elevator," fans would be hard-pressed to find a more potent entry than "Dream On."
Penned by frontman Steven Tyler, the ballad was the second single released from their 1973 eponymous debut album. Long since a staple at classic rock radio — and surely a must for any power ballad streaming playlist — "Dream On" scored its most recent accolade in the form of induction into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame as part of the class of 2018.
What makes this classic tick? Here are seven interesting facts you should know about the iconic Aerosmith power ballad.
1. The Music Was Inspired By Classical Composers
Bach, Chopin … Tyler? Interestingly, the Aerosmith frontman's earliest music memories are in the form of being tucked underneath his dad's Steinway grand piano as early as the tender age of 3. Tyler's father would play music from renowned classical composers, which made quite an impression and later informed the composition of "Dream On." "I grew up, under the piano, listening and living in between the notes of Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Debussy," Tyler recounted in his 2011 autobiography, Does The Noise In My Head Bother You? "That's where I got that 'Dream On' chordage."
2. The Song Came Together In A House In Foxboro
In 1972 Aerosmith — Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer — holed up at a house in Foxboro, Mass., to work on songs for their debut LP. Before hitting the studio, the quintet put in a week at the house and that's where their classic ballad started to take musical shape. "I'd wake in the morning and say, 'Let's go and see if we can play this song.' I'd play a few bars of 'Dream On,'" said Tyler in his autobiography. "The other guys followed my piano. I said, 'Joe, you play what my right hand's doing. Brad you play the left hand.' When we did that — hello, synchronicity!'"
3. The Lyrics Bottle Aerosmith's Early Determination
While the message behind the song is certainly subject to the listener's interpretation, Tyler has confessed the lyrics represent the band's unobstructed will to make it big. "People ask me all the time what 'Dream On' is all about," said Tyler in Walk This Way, Aerosmith's authorized band biography. "It's simple. It's about dreaming until your dreams come true. It's about the hunger and desire and ambition to be somebody that Aerosmith felt in those days. You can hear it in the grooves because it's there."
4. "Dream On" Is The Debut Of The "Real" Steven Tyler
When rock fans think of Tyler, the singer's trademark raspy vocal style comes immediately to mind. Though upon careful listen to Aerosmith's debut album, the singer's vocals are notably neutered and sound different stylistically. (A/B 1973's "Mama Kin" and 1975's "Walk This Way," and compare and contrast.) But "Dream On" was the lone cut that featured a hint of his patented gruff voice — noticeable during the song's big climax — a choice Tyler says was the result of not being sure of himself. "I changed my voice when we did the final vocals," said Tyler in Walk This Way. "I was insecure, but nobody told me not to do it. I thought I didn't sound right on tape. … I used this voice for [entire album] … except 'Dream On.' 'Dream On' is the real me.'"
5. Joe Perry Didn't Think The Song Was "Rock And Roll"
Outside of Keith Richards, there aren't many rock guitarists cooler than Joe Perry. But lore has it that "Dream On" didn't register on the cool meter of Aerosmith's resident riff meister at first. "Back in those days you made your mark playing live," Perry told Classic Rock magazine in 2002. "And to me rock 'n' roll's all about energy and putting on a show. Those were the things that attracted me to rock 'n' roll, but 'Dream On' was a ballad. I didn't really appreciate the musicality of it until later."
6. "Dream On" Bloomed With A Second Chart Wind
Upon its release as a single in 1973, "Dream On" sputtered at No. 59 on the Billboard Hot 100. After another Aerosmith ballad, "You See Me Crying," failed to chart in 1975, Aerosmith manager David Krebs peppered Columbia Records to re-release "Dream On." Columbia serviced Top 40 radio stations with both edited and full versions of "Dream On," a move that paid off handsomely. The re-release of "Dream On" zoomed to No. 6 in early 1976, earning the band their first of eight Top 10 hits.
7. A Slim Shady Sample
Aerosmith are no strangers to rap. After all, they blazed a trail for the fusion of rock and rap with their 1986 collaboration with Run-DMC on their hit "Walk This Way." Fast-forward to the new millennium, Eminem sampled "Dream On" for 2002's "Sing For The Moment." The samples include the main musical theme and Tyler's chorus vocals — plus Perry contributes a new guitar solo at the song's tail end. "Sing For The Moment" peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, a tribute to Eminem and the staying power of "Dream On."