True Colors (Cyndi Lauper song)

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"True Colors"
Single by Cyndi Lauper
from the album True Colors
B-side"Heading for the Moon"
ReleasedAugust 28, 1986
RecordedMarch 3, 1986
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Lennie Petze
Cyndi Lauper singles chronology
"The Goonies 'R' Good Enough"
"True Colors"
"Change of Heart"
Music video
"True Colors" on YouTube

"True Colors" is a song written by American songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. It was both the title track and the first single released from American singer Cyndi Lauper's second album. It was the only original song on the album that Lauper did not help to write.[1] Released late in the summer of 1986, the song would become a major hit for Lauper, spending two weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her last single to occupy the top of the U.S. chart. It received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.


Billy Steinberg originally wrote "True Colors" about his own mother. Tom Kelly altered the first verse and the duo originally submitted the song to Anne Murray, who passed on recording it, and then to Cyndi Lauper.[2] Their demo was in the form of a piano-based gospel ballad like "Bridge over Troubled Water". Steinberg told Songfacts that "Cyndi completely dismantled that sort of traditional arrangement and came up with something that was breathtaking and stark."[1] Other songs they wrote for Lauper include "I Drove All Night" and "Unconditional Love", the former of which went on to be covered by Roy Orbison and Celine Dion, the latter by Susanna Hoffs.

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song, which received heavy rotation on MTV, was directed by American choreographer Patricia Birch. In the video, Lauper sings on a dark soundstage, sitting beside a drum, while a young girl (Catrine Dominique) explores a beach and ends up seeing two women drinking tea on a boat. Lauper appears on the beach in an elaborate jeweled headdress with a shell in her hand. She is then seen lying on a white sheet, which a long haired man (David Wolff) proceeds to pull. They eventually share a kiss. Lauper is then seen walking on the beach with a skirt made of newspaper while she walks past a class of schoolchildren. At the end of the video, she leans over a pool of water, in a scene reminiscent of the album photo cover. The video ends as it began, with Lauper beating on the drum four times, in time with the music.

Reception and legacy[edit]

The single reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 25, 1986, beating Tina Turner's "Typical Male" to the top spot. It also peaked at number three in Australia and New Zealand, and number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.

"True Colors" also became a standard in the gay community. In various interviews, Lauper elaborated that the song had resonated with her because of the recent death of her friend, Gregory Natal, from HIV/AIDS.[3] Years later, Lauper co-founded the True Colors Fund,[4] a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating LGBT youth homelessness.

The single was also featured in a 1999 promo for PBS Kids.[5]


Lauper embarked on a True Colors Tour in 2007 with several other acts, including Deborah Harry and Erasure. The tour was for the Human Rights Campaign to promote LGBT rights in the U.S. and beyond. A second True Colors Tour occurred in 2008.

Track listings[edit]

7-inch single[6]

  1. "True Colors" – 3:45
  2. "Heading for the Moon" – 3:17

European 12-inch single[7]

  1. "True Colors" – 3:45
  2. "Heading for the Moon" – 3:17
  3. "Money Changes Everything" (Live) – 6:04

Credits and Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Phil Collins version[edit]

"True Colors"
True Colors Phil Collins.jpg
Single by Phil Collins
from the album ...Hits
ReleasedOctober 26, 1998 (1998-10-26)[36]
LabelVirgin, Face Value, Atlantic, WEA
Songwriter(s)Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg
Phil Collins singles chronology
"The Same Moon"
"True Colors"
"You'll Be in My Heart"

In 1998, the song was recorded by Phil Collins for his compilation album ...Hits. R&B singer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds produced and provided backing vocals. The track peaked at number 12 on the U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100, number two on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and number 26 on the UK Singles Chart. It reached the top 40 in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, and Hungary.

In 2004, a live rehearsal version was released on Collins' Love Songs: A Compilation... Old and New album.

Personnel and credits[edit]

Credits adapted from the US promo CD liner notes.[37]


Kasey Chambers version[edit]

"True Colours"
True Colours by Kasey Chambers.jpg
Single by Kasey Chambers
ReleasedApril 2003
LabelEMI Music
Songwriter(s)Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg
Producer(s)Nash Chambers
Kasey Chambers singles chronology
"If I Were You"
"True Colours"

In 2003, Australian singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers' recording of "True Colors" became the theme song for the 2003 Rugby World Cup.[55] The song peaked at number four, was certified gold and went on to be the 76th best-selling single in Australia that year[56]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "True Colours"
  2. "If I Could" (Live)
  3. "Lonely"


Chart (2003) Peak
Australian Singles Chart (ARIA)[57] 4

Other versions[edit]

The song has been recorded by many artists.

In 2001, "True Colors" was recorded by Sarina Paris and included on her self-titled debut album. Released on May 22, the album was composed of songs co-written by Paris, with the exception of this cover. The album reached number 167 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S.

In 2009, Jenna Ushkowitz performed it on the television program Glee, and it was released as a single, billed as "True Colors (Glee Cast Version)". This version was included on the compilation album Glee: The Music, Volume 2, released on December 4, 2009. The single charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and reached number 15 in Ireland, number 35 in the United Kingdom,[58] number 38 in Canada[59][60] and number 47 in Australia.

In 2012, Artists Against Bullying (often styled as "Artists Against"), an agglomeration of seven Canadian musicians, re-recorded the song and released it during Bullying Awareness Week.[61] The project was inspired by the increase in teen bullying and cyberbullying, especially the Amanda Todd case,[62] with proceeds being donated to Kids Help Phone, a Canadian counseling service for children and youth.[62] The artists involved in the recording were Lights, Pierre Bouvier (from Simple Plan), Jacob Hoggard (from Hedley), Fefe Dobson, Kardinal Offishall, Alyssa Reid and Walk Off the Earth. The song entered the Canadian Singles Top 100 chart at number 10[63] the week it was released.

In 2014, Shane Filan of Westlife released it as a promotional single for his debut album You and Me.

In 2016, Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick performed a new version of the song for the animated film Trolls and its accompanying soundtrack. Park Hyung-sik and Lee Sung-kyung sang the Korean version for the Korean dubbed version of the film.

In 2020, Peter Gallagher performed "True Colors" in the first-season finale of NBC's Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.[64]


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External links[edit]