McCurdy had sung gospel music on U.S. radio, and moved to Vancouver after World War II with his Canadian wife. While hosting his CBC radio show in 1947, he met Pete Seeger and other influential folk artists. He moved to Toronto to host another radio show a few years later, and sang in New York City clubs, where the folk music revival was in full swing. In New York he sang Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream, one of his first original compositions, for Seeger and The Weavers at their hotel.
Seeger immediately began singing it in concerts, and the folk-music magazine “Sing Out!” published it in July 1951. Seeger was first to record it, on his 1956 album “Love Songs for Friends and Foes” (Smithsonian Folkways), with simple banjo accompaniment. The Weavers recorded it next (1960) followed by Canada’s The Travellers; Chad Mitchell (1962); The Kingston Trio (1963); and Simon and Garfunkel (1964) on “Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.”
Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream’s message of worldwide peace has been recorded in rock and other genres, from Johnny Cash’s country, to Mitch Miller’s easy-listening, to Liberace’s virtuoso piano. Other top-name cover artists include Bruce Springsteen, John Denver, Joan Baez, Garth Brooks, Arlo Guthrie, Mason Proffit, Serena Ryder and Ryan’s Fancy. It was recorded live at Carnegie Hall by The Weavers and at Madison Square Gardens in New York City by Johnny Cash.
As the world entered the Cold War, the song became a standard protest vehicle. It has been translated into dozens of languages and is a choral favourite; NBC even filmed a children’s choir singing it as the Berlin Wall was dismantled in 1989.
It has been an official song of the U.S. Peace Corps, and Toronto classical music station 96.3 FM plays McCurdy’s version with children’s chorus every Remembrance Day. The song became the title of McCurdy’s last album of new material, released in 1976, and was featured on his 1987 release “Thoughts After 60.”
Actor and singer Ed McCurdy (born in Pennsylvania 1919; naturalized Canadian 1986; died Halifax 2000) hosted and performed on CBC radio and television shows and made several recordings of folk material. He received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award in 1992.