Emmylou Harris’ ‘Sweet Dreams’: Story Behind the Country Icon’s Breakout Hit

by Matthew Wilson

Many artists have covered “Sweet Dreams” over the years. But Emmylou Harris completely made the song her own. For many listeners, Harris’ cover is the definite version of the song.

Pardon the pun, but Harris is a dream behind the mic. The singer bedazzles the audience with an intimate song that sounds like she’s lullabying the listener to sleep. Harris sings of unrequited loved and how she struggles to escape the memory of someone she loves even when she’s asleep.

Harris released the song on her third studio album “Elite Hotel” in 1975. Upon release, Harris’ version of the song ended up being its most successful. It topped the country music charts.

Emmylou Harris Covers a Don Gibson Classic

Harris was one of many country singers to put their twists on the song. Don Gibson wrote the song all the way back in 1955. The Tennessee-based songwriter created a ballad of a man expressing regret and sadness for failing to win the literal girl of his dreams.

While he wrote the song while working for Acuff-Rose publishing, he didn’t record the song himself until 1960. Instead, he shopped “Sweet Dreams” out to artist Faron Young. In 1956, Young turned the tune into an instant classic. Young’s version charted all the way up to No. 2 on the charts and won over many fans at the time.

In 1957, Gibson moved away from songwriting to performing himself. He began a career as a solo artist and even wrote and recorded a No.1 hit called “Oh Lonesome Me.” Gibson’s own version of the song failed to be as popular on the charts as Young.

Over the next two decades, several artists recorded the tune including Reba McEntire, Patsy Cline, and songwriter Tommy McLain. Each version has its own merits, but Harris struck musical gold when she recorded a version in 1975. The tune remains one of her signature tunes even today.