Sir Paul McCartney’s biographer, Barry Miles, shared the story about how the tune for the Beatles song “Yesterday” originated.
It was 1965. McCartney was at his family home in London, and while sleeping, had a dream. In the dream, the tune was playing. He woke up and recalled the tune and liked it, but recognized that it was nothing like the melodies he typically created. Despite that, he liked it, so he rushed to the piano and started playing it.
“I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, ‘That’s great! I wonder what it is?’ There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed, by the window. I got out of the bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F# minor 7th, and that leads you through then to B, E minor, and finally back to E. It all moves forward logically. I like the melody a lot, but because I dreamed it, I couldn’t believe I had written it. I thought, ‘No, I have never written anything like this before,’ but I had the tune, which was the most magical thing.”
After McCartney had the written the song, he was concerned about whether or not it was truly his. After all, it was very possible he heard the melody somewhere else, but did not recognize it, and subconsciously memorized it. He was afraid of plagiarizing someone else’s work. McCartney took his song to other people in the music industry to see if they could associate it with someone else’s work. It was very much like taking a “found” item to the “Lost & Found” department and checking against the reported lost items at a large institution.
The insecurity he experienced was because he created the song in his dream. However, after a while, when no one could recognize the song, he felt comfortable claiming it as his own. Dreams are a source for creativity, message reception, and problem-solving. Was the song “Yesterday” a creation that manifested in McCartney’s dream or was his dream the channel for creative delivery?
The same question can be posed for Mendeleev’s periodic table of elements. Was it really his subconscious solving a long-time problem, or did he receive the information from a source outside of himself via his dream (a greater message)?
Whatever the source, our dreams provide valuable insight into many aspects of our lives. When we have an awareness of our dream content, we can apply those experiences to our lives for self-improvement. Sometimes this will result in gifts to humanity.
Sources: Paul McCartney — Many Years From Now, Barry Miles (NY, Henry Holt, 1997)
The Committee of Sleep, D. Barrett, 2001