I Can Sing a Rainbow Nursery Rhyme- Lyrics, History, Video, Lesson Plans & More

I Can Sing a Rainbow, also called Sing a Rainbow or the Rainbow Song, is a popular children’s song that teaches about the colors of the rainbow.

The song appeared in a film in 1955 and became famous. Let’s look at everything about the song and what inspired it.


Lyrics for I can Sing a Rainbow As Sung Today

The Rainbow song mentions different spectral colors in the four verses. The colors don’t need to be present in the rainbow, as you can see from the lyrics.

Red and yellow and pink and green
Purple and orange and blue,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow too.

Listen with your ears,
Listen with your eyes,
And sing everything you see!
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing along with me…

Full Original Lyrics for I Can Sing a Rainbow

The song is a recent nursery rhyme that has resisted changes to the original lyrics. The way it is sung today is the same as when the original writer wrote it years ago.

However, some versions tweak the lyrics to include different colors.


Who Wrote The Rainbow Song?

Arthur Hamilton, an American songwriter, wrote the song in 1954 as part of three songs appearing in the film Pete Kelly’s Blues. The film hit theatres in 1955 and had a scene where Peggy Lee sings the rainbow song.

The film wasn’t a hit, though. However, that didn’t stop Peggy Lee from getting an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a supporting role. Arthur Hamilton reckons the nomination was because of her performance of the rainbow song in the film.

How Old Was Arthur Hamilton When He Wrote I Can Sing a Rainbow?

Arthur Hamilton was born Arthur Hamilton Stern on October 22, 1926, and wrote I Can Sing a Rainbow in 1954. He was 28 years old when he wrote the Rainbow Song for the film Pete Kelly’s Blues.

He dropped his third name for the two names he professionally went by. Hamilton is also famous for writing the song cry me a river, a song that was also supposed to be a part of the film but wasn’t.

He has many other compositions that notable musicians have recorded.

Who First Sang I Can Sing a Rainbow?

The first person to sing I Can Sing a Rainbow was Peggy Lee. She sang the song as a character in the film Pete Kelly’s Blues. The character was named Rose Hopkins.

Later on, the song has seen many artists sing it. The Dells, an American vocal group, sang one of the most famous versions. Their version became a major international hit in 1969.


What Does the Nursery Rhyme I Can Sing a Rainbow Mean?

Arthur Hamilton wrote the song for a film to be sung by a character Rose Hopkins. Rose was an alcoholic, washed-up jazz singer, and mistress to a head gangster.

We can therefore assume the song was never intended as a children’s rhyme.

What Is a Rainbow?

A rainbow is a spectrum of light appearing in the sky when there’s refraction, dispersion, and reflection of light through water particles. The appearance of a rainbow is a circular arc with multiple colors.

What Does Sing a Rainbow Mean?

The phrase sing a rainbow could mean singing aloud the colors of the rainbow- after the phrase follows the names of colors.

What Does Listen with Your Eyes Mean?

You can’t obviously listen with your eyes – you see with them.

However, listen with your eyes could mean to really use your senses to discover as much as you can about the phenomenon and beauty of a rainbow because just as quickly as they appear, they disappear!


Does the Rainbow Song Only Sing About The Colors of the Rainbow?

The rainbow song mentions not only colors in the rainbow. It adds pink, purple, and any other colors a singer wants.

If you’re singing it, you can also throw in other colors. It’s really up to you. Only ensure you keep the melody and tune!

What Made Sing a Rainbow So Famous?

Arthur Hamilton, the writer of the song, says he didn’t write it expecting it to be a children’s song. He never even promoted the song to be for children. The song somehow spontaneously became famous.

Maybe it had something to do with Peggy Lee, a famous singer performing the song in a film and concerts.

According to Peggy Lee’s daughter, Nick Lee Forster, Peggy loved the song and sang it all the time. She sang it at concerts and even to her grandchildren. Maybe that helped to make the song a massive children’s hit.

Such was the song’s fame that Hamilton says he stopped keeping count when its recordings exceeded 50 in 1975.

What Inspired Arthur Hamilton to Write Sing a Rainbow?

In 1954, Peggy Lee was about to perform at a Las Vegas concert. Arthur Hamilton sent her a telegram with three words: sing a rainbow. He meant to wish her luck for the performance.

Later on, Peggy asked Hamilton to write a song from the three words. So when he saw the script of the film Pete Kelly’s Blues with a scene that needed a child-like song, he thought the three words would come in handy.

With that, he wrote the song many people now know as the Rainbow song. In the original song lyrics, included colors not in an actual rainbow. Hamilton said someone edited it to remove the colors.

Is I can Sing a Rainbow In the Public Domain?

Sing a Rainbow isn’t a public domain song since Arthur Hamilton owns its copyrights. However, since the song is quite famous, some people treat it as a public domain song but it is not.

Hamilton registered I can sing a Rainbow it in 1955, so it belongs to him. However, he doesn’t show much enthusiasm to pursue people who use the song, saying it depends on how much damage that does.

Were you planning to use the song in your works? Please don’t treat it as a public-domain song as you now know better!

How Do You Sing a Rainbow in Sign Language?

You can sing the Rainbow song in sign language. Here is a resource I found to help you.

Lesson Plans and Activities Inspired By I Can Sing a Rainbow

The following is a selection of Lesson Plans. You need to click on the images to go to the websites to learn more and download the resources.

What Is the Time Signature of Sing a Rainbow?

Sing a Rainbow is played with 20 measures a minute and has a time signature of 4/4.

Sheet Music for I can Sing a Rainbow

How to Play I Can Sing a Rainbow on An Instrument

You can play Sing a Rainbow on most instruments. The following are some instructional videos from YouTube that you can follow!


Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

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