The Symbolism of “Colors”

Posted in: Popular Culture by bill-o on October 09, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, the “true meaning” of popular songs can be elusive. In fact, sometimes the “hidden meaning” of songs is not even the point: Sometimes the music is good, and the lyrics don’t really matter. All right, … that’s true enough, at least some of the time.¬†However, I think that sometimes it’s worth taking a second look at the songs we listen to to see “if there is something more going on here”.

The song “Colors” by Grace Potter & the Nocturnals on their recent self-titled album is one of those songs that I think it’s worth taking a closer look at. I had listened to this song a few times and loved the music, but I didn’t really pay attention to the lyrics. Then suddenly, it dawned on me: This is a pro-immigration song. Why do I say that? Take a look at parts of the lyrics …

“I don’t want to build a wall …” – This is a nod to the wall, which is at times a “virtual fence”, on the U.S.-Mexico border. This is designed to prevent illegal immigration into the U.S. from Mexico.

“… Draw a line across the sand” – The U.S.-Mexico border is mostly an arbitrary line across the desert.

“‘Cause there’s room for one and all” – Pro-immigration supporters argue that there is plenty of room in the U.S. for more people to come.

“And this land is our land” – Probably a play on the title of Woody Guthrie’s famous 1944 song “This Land Is Your Land”. “Our” land would suggest something even more inclusive than “your” land and “my” land.

“And all the black and white turns into colors” – Black and white were the dominant ethnic groups by population in the U.S. for several centuries. Now, with immigration, the U.S. is more diverse than ever before, with people from all over the world living in America.

“When there’s no you and there’s no others” – Again, a nod to inclusion and diversity.

“And all the rules grow wings and fly away” – Strict immigration law separates people. This is a poetic way of saying that it would be better if those rules would just go away.

As always, Shadows and Symbols does not normally take political positions. I’m just putting this out there for you to consider the lyrics of this song, and perhaps other songs, to see if there are deeper meanings there.