Clouds may not seem to be the first choice of inspiration for most songwriters. Nevertheless, there have been some great songs and great music written and inspired by them. And we are not just talking about what we might call modern music. The Classical composers had their moments too.
Clouds have been used by many writers and used as imagery to create a mood. So powerful can be their presence they can illustrate our hopes and fears. There are plenty of songs about clouds.
Let’s start with one of the great cloud songs written by one of my favorite composers. A Canadian singer that typifies the 60s in many ways.
- Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
- Cloudy – Simon and Garfunkel
- Cloudbusting – Kate Bush
- Above The Clouds – Paul Weller
- Get Off My Cloud – The Rolling Stones
- Black Cloud – Morrissey
- My Girl – The Temptations
- Cloud Nine – The Temptations
- I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash
- Nuages gris (Gray Clouds) – Franz Liszt
- Adelaide Opus 45 – Ludwig Van Beethoven
- Little Wing – Jimi Hendrix
- Far Above The Clouds – Mike Oldfield
- With My Head In The Clouds – Glenn Miller
- Clouds In My Coffee – Bonnie Tyler
- Tell Me What You See – The Beatles
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- A Relevant Imagery – Final Thought on Songs About Clouds
From the album called Clouds and an apt way to start. This was first released in 1968 sung by Judy Collins, which became a big record for her. Joni Mitchell included the song on the Clouds album in 1969. Judy Collins had the single success. But the song introduced us all to the songs of Joni Mitchell, which was no bad thing.
If anyone is going to write a dreamy song about clouds, then it is going to be Paul Simon. This was a track from their stunning 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.
For a lot of us, growing up in the 60s, that was one of the albums that were the soundtrack of our youth. A classical Spanish guitar, typical Simon and Garfunkel harmonies dreamy and gentle, another song indicative of its time. Paul wrote it with one of the Seekers, Bruce Woodley. The Seekers also recorded it, as did several other people.
Is there a better female songwriter from the 70s? And is there a better female songwriter than Kate Bush even to this day? Many would say there isn’t.
She took the inspiration for many of her songs from literature, “Wuthering Heights” is the obvious example. This was written with Peter Reich’s “Book of Dreams” published in 1973 firmly in mind. If you haven’t read it, do so. A tale about a boy’s relationship with his eccentric father.
A brilliant song and an even more stunning music video considering the year it was made. But then Kate Bush was rather good at making videos that made you think.
A committed ‘Mod’ and an admitted “Who-worshipper,” Paul Weller’s first solo album proved he could survive without the Style Council. This was a track from his 1992 album entitled simply Paul Weller. It is a laid-back track that surprises most people with its slow-funk influences.
I wasn’t going to include this cloud song as it is a little bit out of character with the rest of the music we are considering. However, it does mention clouds. Hot on the heels of the Stones’ success with “Satisfaction” came this. It was thrown together quickly to make a follow-up, and it sounds like it.
Written, we are told because they were fed up with being continuously asked for a follow-up song. I was never sure whether this was a serious attempt at a follow-up. Or maybe someone in the band said, let’s make a bad song and just give it to them to release for a laugh.
Whatever, it was another big hit for them, so the record companies in the UK and the US were happy.
Never the happiest of songwriters, Morrissey had been the frontman/singer of The Smiths. They were not the happiest of little bunnies most of the time. This song is on the album Years of Refusal and was co-written by Boz Boorer. Jeff Beck played guitar.
The song talks about unrequited love and how the dark clouds above can influence your thoughts. He emphasizes that it is quite normal for your mood to be down when the skies are grey. He might be right.
Let’s lighten the mood a little and go back to 1964 for this classic from The Temptations. Co-written by Smokey Robinson about his wife, Claudette. It was also memorably recorded by Otis Redding on his 1965 Otis Blue album.
The “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day” line is embedded in music history and instantly recognizable. It reflects the opposite mood to Morrisey’s track.
This is one of those songs that marks a watershed. Not only in the life of a band but also the history of music. I can remember hearing this for the first time and thinking, “wow!”
Funky, psychedelic in some ways, talking about major social problems that were rarely discussed. This song changed the mold. The all sweetness and light of “My Girl” had been swept away. Reality took its place in its descriptions of ghetto life.
This was followed up years later by Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City,” describing social problems that still exist today. But it was “Cloud Nine” that lifted the lid musically after Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” oratory. It featured David Edwards on a great first lead vocal after he had replaced David Ruffin.
Nash wrote and recorded this song in the early 70s, and it proved to be a huge success for him. It was later covered by Jimmy Cliff, but it is Johnny Nash’s version most people remember.
A great sentimental song about clouds. It reminds us that no matter how dark the clouds are behind them is always the sun. And when they eventually pass away, we remember the sun has been there all the time.
But writing songs and music about clouds isn’t just the domain of the modern songwriter. The Classical guys got there first.
Franz Liszt was known for his virtuoso, frenetic piano playing, but he was also known for deep and dark compositions. This is one of them.
None of the pretty fluffy things floating across the sky here. This is Liszt. The tone is menacing and dark and portrays wall-to-wall dark clouds. It’s a piece that sounds simple, but it is far from that. This is Liszt. He plays a mind game with tones that leave you unsure of what is coming next. A genius at work.
Adelaide Opus 45 – Ludwig Van Beethoven
Unlike some classical composers like Schubert or Mahler, Beethoven didn’t write his music as songs. He just wrote music. Rarely is there a case where he wrote words to go with the music. Even in “Ode To Joy” from his Ninth Symphony, the words were written by Johann Von Schiller.
This short piece was written very early in his life and revised many times. Indicating he didn’t think himself a good songwriter.
It follows the theme of “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” But he never determines where it is he is going. An interesting piece for those studying music and composition in some depth.
Some consider this to be Jimi Hendrix’s masterclass. Guitarists spend years trying to master the introduction and never quite get it right. The only three guitarists I have ever heard get close are Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, and Robin Trower.
Why is it here, is it about clouds? Not really, apart from the opening online, which sets the scene for the song. “Well, she’s walking through the clouds.” That’s a good enough reason to put it in.
This is the final track on the album Tubular Bells III. It was released as a single in 1999. Not everyone’s cup of tea, of course. It may be best described as electronic progressive rock.
It has an ethereal sound that can spring up images of clouds. Just as in the closing pieces in Tubular Bells and Tubular Bells II, it features not surprisingly tubular bells. On III, they seem a little more dramatic in sound.
This was probably because on the original two albums, they used real tubular bells. On this track, they combined the real bells with sounds from a Korg M-1. It was featured in the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games in 2012. Played in a section designed to honor the NHS. For that role, it was a great choice.
Back in time, a little for this one from Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Orchestra. Extremely popular during the second world war, this track was part of the 1943 “Sustain The Wings” broadcasts.
Written by Dieter Bohlen, this was a song included on Bonnie Tyler’s album Lost In Love. Also recorded by Carly Simon, it is a simple message about viewing the end of a relationship. Although, the clouds are in her coffee cup against the sky.
One wonders if the song inspired part of the lyrics for Carly Simon’s big hit “You’re So Vain.” With the line, “I had some dreams there were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee,” it sure could be.
Not one that many would put on a list of songs about clouds. It was essentially a “filler song” for the album Help. Most albums have one. But it makes more than a passing reference to the positive emotions that clouds create in us.
“Big and black the clouds may be, time will pass away, if you put your trust in me, I’ll make bright your day.” The imagery of dark clouds lifting to reveal happiness is very strong as they ask, ‘Tell me what you see?’
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We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Top Songs About Home, the Best Sing-Along Songs, the Best Jazz Albums of All Time, and Funny Songs to Sing with Kids for more insight into great music.
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A Relevant Imagery – Final Thought on Songs About Clouds
Clouds can certainly produce a range of emotions. They are a powerful image at times. We have just seen that in our last example by the Beatles.
They can also create a mood. Anything from joy to despair and all stops in between. It’s not surprising then that they are used so often to display emotions by songwriters.
So, until next time, happy listening.