This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #412: True Colours by Cyndi Lauper.
Cyndi Lauper burst onto the music scene in 1983 with one of the most successful debut albums ever for a female artist. Her album, “She’s So Unusual” spawned four now-classic songs: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, “Time After Time”, “All Through the Night” and “She Bop”. She won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist that year, too. Lauper had several other hits over the course of her career but, none were more important and inspiring that a song called, “True Colours”.
“True Colours” is one of those songs that has ended up having a legacy that extends beyond the original meaning of the song when it was written. It is a song that has become a very personal and yet, collective, anthem for the Gay Rights Movement around the world. For Lauper, herself, it was to be the final #1 hit she had in her very successful career. The song (when she sings it) is about a dear friend who had died of AIDS. But, as irony would have it, it was the only song on the album, “True Colours” that she had no role in writing. The song, “True Colours” was written by two men, Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. The song was written about Steinburg’s own mother and was, originally, given to Anne Murray (of all people) to record. Murray declined so, next, the song was shown to Lauper. She liked the song but didn’t think the musical arrangement worked (it was based upon “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”) so, she re-constructed the arrangement and came up with something that now seems absolutely perfect for the song.
One of the most ingenious aspects of “True Colours” is the universality of its message. The song is about accepting someone as exactly who they are and who they were meant to be. It is about true love; which is welcoming and protective and reassuring and warm. “True Colours” can be sung by parents toward children, husbands toward wives (and vice versa), friends toward friends and so on. It is a song about being seen. Truly seen. And loved for it.
I had the privilege of seeing Cyndi Lauper open for Cher in Toronto about fifteen years ago or so. It is not a stretch to say that Keri and I were among the only straight people in the entire audience. Both Cyndi Lauper and Cher have a huge following in the LGBTQ community and the love and respect flowed both ways that night. “True Colours” is one of the most revered songs by this community and has come to be paired with the iconic rainbow flag as the true manifestation of this song’s title. For those who may not be aware, the original eight colours of the Pride Flag stood for: Pink: Sexuality, Red: Life, Orange: Healing, Yellow: Sunlight, Green: Nature, Turquoise: Art, Indigo: Harmony and Violet: Soul. When you look at these colour meanings, it is easy to see how they help form the core characteristics of any self-actualized human. The message of “True Colours” being that regardless of how much of each colour we possess, we are all beautiful and worthy of acceptance and of love. That is one powerful message and, it all started with the title track of an album by a funky girl with crazy hair of her own. So, spend a few minutes of time today and think good thoughts about someone who would welcome your kind regard. That is how we bring sunlight into the darkness. Have a wonderful day.
The link to the music video for True Colours by Cyndi Lauper can be found here.
Cyndi Lauper has her own wonderful website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.
Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.