Rainbows have a long history of representing hope and renewal. As far back as the Bible, the rainbow symbolized God’s covenant with his people.
So, it’s no surprise that composers and lyricists evoke the rainbow when they want to explore symbols of love, optimism, and hope.
Here are some of the best songs about rainbows.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland
Song year: 1939
You can’t talk about songs about rainbows without mentioning Judy Garland’s famous rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’
It’s the first musical song you hear in ‘The Sound Of Music,’ sung by a young Dorothy Gale, daydreaming of a more exciting life for herself.
In that regard, it has several similarities with Dvorak's ‘Song to the Moon’ from ‘Rusalka.’ Listen to the rising octaves and falling sixths of Dvorjak’s chorus next to Garland and see if you can spot the musical and thematic similarities.
Chasing Rainbows by Robot Orchestra
Song Year: 2015
Robot Orchestra’s ‘Chasing Rainbows,’ like many songs about rainbows, is a reminder to always strive for optimism. The world can be grey, somber, and even overwhelming, but you can always find a rainbow and beauty if you know where to look.
It’s a relaxed melody that perfectly echoes the speaker’s search for beauty and joy.
Rainbow Connection by Jim Henson
Song Year: 1979
This song about rainbows is best known to listeners because it was sung by Kermit the Frog in ‘The Muppet Movie.’
Like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ before it, it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The song inspired listeners everywhere. The reminder that rainbows connect heaven and earth sent many Muppet devotees off chasing their own rainbows toward a brighter, better future.
Look to the Rainbow by Petula Clark and Fred Astaire
Song Year: 1968
‘Look to the Rainbow’ is yet another song about rainbows where the rainbow is more metaphoric than literal.
It’s the titular song of ‘Finian’s Rainbow.’ In the musical, Fred Astaire, playing Petula Clark’s Irish father, encourages her to follow rainbows, and the people who chase them, to realize her dreams.
Pocketful of Rainbows by Elvis Presley
‘Pocketful of Rainbows’ is another song about rainbows that began life as part of a film. In the case of ‘Pocketful of Rainbows,’ the film was ‘G.I. Blues.’
Elvis was newly discharged from the army when Paramount approached him for the film. And although his previous films were received poorly, Presley was still determined to act.
‘G.I. Blues’ wasn’t a tremendous success, but most critics agreed Presley’s acting had matured, perhaps because of his military service. However you feel about the film, ‘Pocketful of Rainbows’ remains a memorable and catchy song.
Rainbowland by Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton
Song Year: 2017
The inspiration for ‘Rainbow Land’ came from Miley Cyrus’s brightly-colored Malibu home. Parton, her godmother, worked with Cyrus on refining its message. With her help, it became a song about rainbows and the freedom and safety everyone should enjoy.
Expanding on the song later, Cyrus said it was about embracing our diversity as something to celebrate.
Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows by Lesley Gore
Song Year: 1963
‘Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows’ is a slightly different variation of the metaphorical musical rainbows discussed.
It’s not about dreams or even the importance of hope. Instead, it’s how someone we love can transform life into something brighter and more meaningful than it might be.
She’s a Rainbow by The Rolling Stones
Song Year: 1967
‘She’s A Rainbow’ is a surprising shift in focus for the Rolling Stones. By 1967, they were famous for their sexual excesses, even deviance, in their songs.
‘She’s a Rainbow’ is a much gentler approach. It would be too much to call it sentimental, but it’s demonstrably more romantic than some of their pieces.
The result is an optimistic song that can’t help making you smile.
Double Rainbow by Katy Perry
Song Year: 2013
The titular ‘Double Rainbow’ of Katy Perry’s song is a metaphor for synchronized love.
There is such understanding between Perry and her partner that their love is best depicted by not one rainbow but two. They always reflect the best parts of themselves back at each other. The result is a truly gratifying, loving relationship.
Rainbow by Sia
Song Year: 2017
Sia’s ‘Rainbow,’ like ‘Rainbow Connection,’ is a song about rainbows that began life as part of a children’s movie.
In the case of Australian singer Sia and ‘Rainbow,’ the movie was for ‘My Little Pony.’
The song reminds listeners of any age to always believe in themselves. It may feel that there is less magic in your world than there should be. But you can never rule out the possibility that you will be surprised by joy or at least a rainbow.
And when that happens, things will look up, as they always do. The secret, Sia says? Keep believing in yourself.