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The Meaning Behind The Song: Paper Tiger by Sue Thompson


“Paper Tiger” is a song written and recorded by Sue Thompson in 1965. Released as a single, the song achieved moderate success on the charts, peaking at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite not attaining major commercial success, “Paper Tiger” holds a special place in the hearts of fans and music enthusiasts alike for its captivating lyrics and emotional depth.

Background of Sue Thompson

Sue Thompson, born Eva Sue McKee, was an American pop and country singer who achieved success in the 1960s. Emerging from a working-class family in Nevada, Thompson’s career took off after signing with the Hickory Records label. She gained popularity with her unique voice and ability to connect with listeners through heartfelt melodies.

The Meaning Behind “Paper Tiger”

At its core, “Paper Tiger” is a tale of vulnerability and uncertainty in a romantic relationship. The song explores the theme of a partner who appears strong and formidable on the surface but reveals their weak and fragile nature beneath the facade.

The lyrics depict the protagonist’s struggle to come to terms with the reality of their partner’s true nature. The reference to a “paper tiger” serves as a metaphor for someone who initially appears powerful, yet lacks substance and collapses under pressure.

The Emotional Journey

As the song unfolds, the emotional journey of the protagonist becomes apparent. Initially, they are enamored by their partner’s seemingly invincible demeanor. However, as time progresses, cracks in the facade begin to emerge. The narrator gradually realizes that their partner is lacking emotional resilience, leading to feelings of disappointment and disillusionment.

The chorus of the song particularly emphasizes this emotional journey, as the protagonist yearns for a partner who can provide the support and stability they crave. The line “I need a man, not a boy who runs and hides” expresses the narrator’s desire for a genuine and mature relationship.

The Symbolism in the Lyrics

Throughout “Paper Tiger,” Sue Thompson skillfully employs symbolism to reinforce the song’s central theme. The lyrics contain subtle references to the fragility of the paper tiger, amplifying the message of vulnerability masked by a façade of strength.

Furthermore, the repeated mention of the word “tell” throughout the song highlights the struggle for open and honest communication within the relationship. The protagonist pleads for their partner to reveal their true emotions, wishing they would “tell me you don’t love me,” acknowledging the necessity of transparency in a healthy relationship.

The Reception and Impact

Upon its release, “Paper Tiger” garnered positive reviews from critics who praised Sue Thompson’s emotive delivery and ability to convey complex emotions through her vocals. Although it didn’t become a chart-topping hit, the song resonated with listeners who could relate to the feelings of vulnerability and disappointment depicted in the lyrics.

Over time, “Paper Tiger” has become a cherished piece of music history, showcasing Sue Thompson’s talent as a singer-songwriter and her ability to touch the hearts of her audience through her poignant lyrics.


1. Who wrote “Paper Tiger”?

“Paper Tiger” was written by Sue Thompson herself. She often drew inspiration from personal experiences and relationships when crafting her songs.

2. What inspired Sue Thompson to write “Paper Tiger”?

While there isn’t any specific information detailing the exact inspiration behind the song, it is likely that Sue Thompson drew upon her own experiences or observations of fragile relationships.

3. Is “Paper Tiger” considered one of Sue Thompson’s biggest hits?

Although “Paper Tiger” achieved modest success on the charts, it is not regarded as one of Sue Thompson’s most significant hits. However, it remains a fan favorite and showcases her storytelling abilities.

4. Did Sue Thompson write any other popular songs?

Yes, Sue Thompson had several other successful songs throughout her career, including “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” and “Norman.” These tracks garnered more commercial success and are often better recognized by audiences.

5. Has “Paper Tiger” been covered by other artists?

Yes, “Paper Tiger” has been covered by various artists over the years, including Peggy Lee and Betty Everett. These renditions give different interpretations to the song, adding layers of complexity to its meaning.

6. What genre does “Paper Tiger” belong to?

“Paper Tiger” falls under the pop music genre, with elements of country influences in Sue Thompson’s voice and musical arrangements.

7. Are there any live performances of “Paper Tiger” available?

While there might not be extensive footage of Sue Thompson performing “Paper Tiger” live, there are various recordings from her live shows where she includes the song in her setlist.

8. Did “Paper Tiger” receive any awards or nominations?

“Paper Tiger” did not receive any significant awards or nominations but remains a staple in Sue Thompson’s discography and an important part of her musical legacy.

9. What impact did “Paper Tiger” have on Sue Thompson’s career?

While “Paper Tiger” may not have reached the heights of some of her other songs in terms of commercial success, it showcased Sue Thompson’s talent as a songwriter and solidified her fanbase. The song further established her status as an artist who could intricately convey complex emotions.

10. Were there any controversies or stories surrounding “Paper Tiger”?

There are no notable controversies or stories surrounding “Paper Tiger.” The song’s impact primarily lies in its heartfelt lyrics rather than any dramatic occurrences associated with its creation or reception.

11. Does “Paper Tiger” remain relevant today?

Although “Paper Tiger” may not be widely known among younger generations, it continues to resonate with listeners who appreciate the portrayal of vulnerable relationships and the longing for authenticity.

12. Has “Paper Tiger” been used in any films or TV shows?

While “Paper Tiger” has not been prominently featured in films or TV shows, it is possible that it has been used in the background or as part of a soundtrack in some instances.


“Paper Tiger” holds significant meaning within the discography of Sue Thompson and continues to captivate listeners with its emotional depth and relatable themes. Through its exploration of vulnerability and the discovery of true selves in relationships, the song resonates with audiences, solidifying its place in music history.

Despite the modest commercial success, “Paper Tiger” remains a cherished gem, treasured for its powerful lyrics and Sue Thompson’s expressive delivery. It serves as a testament to the impact that a well-crafted song can have, even if it fails to top the charts.

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