by Kevin Burton
White is clean in the Tide commercials, virginal in the wedding chapels. It’s a bit of a beginning or blank slate.
Honestly, this list leaves me with a blank stare. As great as the music is, most of the lyrics are far from straightforward.
For a bonus track on our Flying Colors look at songs with white in the title, how about “Birthday” by the Beatles? That’s a song about a beginning from something everybody calls The White Album.
From there, here’s your white song list:
8 “White Lightning,” by George Jones. This song was written by J.P. Richardson, known professionally as The Big Bopper. Richardson died along with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens in the tragic plane crash immortalized by Don McLean in American Pie. Jones’s version was released just six days after the crash.
It was Jones’s first number one on the county chart but it sounds a lot more like rock and roll. You could call it rockabilly. I wouldn’t call it country. Jones did the Big Bopper proud.
7 “White Hot,” by Red Rider. The song tells a story set in Africa, about a gun runner. This first chart hit for the Canadian band rose to number 48 on the US Hot 100. That’s as high as Red Rider would ever get. Long intro is boring but the meat of the song makes it worth the wait.
6 “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” by Procol Harum. I like the tune but I can’t make sense of it. Went looking for more music by the British band and found “A Salty Dog,” which wasn’t much clearer. Still, there appears to be some substance here, not just drug-song junk lyrics.
5“White Bird,” by It’s A Beautiful Day. A quarantine song from 1969, long before the pandemic. Co-writer Peter LaFlamme tells of a bleak time for himself and his then wife Linda. “Where the ‘white bird’ thing came from…We were like caged birds in that attic. We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. It was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way.”
The song was huge in the San Francisco bay area but never made it to a national audience. You should seek it out if you haven’t heard it.
4 “White Room,” by Cream. This is a jam song by a jam band. I’m not looking for Simon and Garfunkel insights here. Is it beat poetry? What meaning should I draw from “a place where the shadows run from themselves”? It’s just a great Eric Clapton guitar jam.
3 “White Lies,” by Grin. Grin was a band put together in the early 70s by Nils Lofgren, who later joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
White lies got heavy airplay in the Washington DC area according to Wikipedia. The song is jumping, nice bottom, good vocal approach. It reminds me of something Joe Jackson would do, except that the lyrics are vacuous.
Now here is some white noise before we go to the top two:
Thumbs down: “White Rabbit,” by Jefferson Airplane. Feed your intellect, don’t feed your head.
Thumbs down: “Nights In White Satin,” by The Moody Blues. Short version is interminable. Long version, torturous. Please, stop.
Now my top two:
2 “In A Long White Room,” by Nancy Wilson. What a find! Intriguing song because of its lyrics and because of the scarcity of information about it. A commenter on You Tube says she “totally comprehends its meaning.” Well I do not, but I want to!
It could be a song about cohabitation, which was taboo at the time (1969). It’s a great pop song by a renowned jazz singer. Co-writer Clint Ballard Jr. also wrote “You’re No Good” for Linda Ronstadt and “Game of Love” for Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, according to Wikipedia.
1 “Una Paloma Blanca” by George Baker Selection. Flute music with a back beat. Getting down in 1975. This song flew up to 26 on hot 100. The title means “a white dove” in Spanish, that’s how it makes our Flying Colors white list.
Baker said the song is about “a poor South American farmer who works hard all day and then sits by a tree and dreams of being a white bird with its freedom.”
If I missed your favorite white song, please mention it in comments below.