Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Disney Song #70: Colors of the Wind

To Listen:  Film / Cover

The Facts:
  • Writers: Alan Menken (music), Stephen Schwartz (lyrics)
  • Performers: Judy Kuhn (film), Vanessa Williams (cover)
  • Year: 1995
  • Key:  D♭ Major (film) / B Major (cover) 

Heard In: 

Pocahontas was part of the "Disney Renaissance" that began with The Little Mermaid.  (Side note -- I just watched a good movie about the Disney Renaissance called Waking Sleeping Beauty).  Here's a Q and A with lyricist Stephen Schwartz from his website where he talks about "Colors of the Wind" (I pasted an excerpt below):

The lyrics to "Colors of the Wind" were inspired by a famous letter written by Chief Seattle to Congress, which has been re-printed many times. In the song, I basically wanted Pocahontas to address the Eurocentrism of John Smith; so in essence, it's a consciousness-raising song. I tried to use Native American locution and imagery, and thus the specific wording was somewhat influenced by some of the Native American poetry I had been reading as research.

I feel somewhat guilty to have to tell you that the phrase "blue corn moon" has no actual meaning in Indian lore. I made it up because I liked the sound of it. Its basis is this: In preparation for doing the lyrics to POCAHONTAS, I read a lot of Native American poetry. One of the phrases I came across, in a love poem, was : "I will come to you in the moon of green corn." (The Native Americans called their months "moons" and named them according to something that happened seasonally, such as the arrival of green corn.) The phrase stuck in my head, but I didn't think the lyric : "Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the green corn moon" really worked, because of the association of the moon and green cheese, plus the "ee" sound in it, etc. So I changed it to blue corn moon, which I thought had a nice resonance to it because of the phrase "blue moon" and the fact that there are things like blue corn tortillas, etc. Even though it's not authentic, and actually implies Southwestern tribes rather than the Northeastern Algonkians of Pocahontas, I used it in the lyric and it obviously served me very well. 

Musically Speaking:
Great song, and the signature song from the movie.  I like Vanessa's version a little better, though they're both good.

Personal Connection:
Not much of one.  Pocahontas is a good movie, but I don't believe I've seen it since it first came out back in 1995.

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