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The song is recorded in the African Methodist Episcopal Church Review in 1911 as having been sung by an opera singer awaiting trial for fraud in his cell while a group of men arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct were before the judge. The men were said to have dropped to the knees as the song began 'Last night I lay a-sleeping, There came a dream so fair.', the lyrics contrasting with their previous night's drunkenness. The song's conclusion resulted in the judge dismissing the men without punishment, each having learned a lesson from the song.
The song has been performed by Mahalia Jackson and numerous other performers. The song is sung at Carols by candlelight in Australia in the domain Sydney. And at the Sidney Myer music bowl carols by candlelight.