In our interview with Billy Steinberg
, the lyricist explained: "On 'True Colors' I had this verse and it was written about my mother: 'You've got a long list with so many choices, a ventriloquist with so many voices, and your friends in high places say where the pieces fit, you've got too many faces in your makeup kit, but I see your true colors shining through,' then it went on with the same chorus that the song has.
I often employ a sort of stream-of-consciousness lyric writing style and I remember writing that verse. The verse came first. So the 'true colors shining through' came out of the line that preceded it, 'You've got too many faces in your makeup kit.' We wrote that verse and chorus, Tom and I, and Tom said to me, 'Gee, that chorus has tremendous universal appeal, it could be sung by anyone to anyone. It could be a parent to a child, a friend to a friend, could be for or about anyone. On the other hand, the lyric to the verse you've written, although it's very poetic and very interesting, it seems to be specifically about someone with friends in high places.' He thought it had less universality and I agreed with him. In spite of the fact that I had written that verse about my mom and that it led to the chorus lyric and I was proud of it, I agreed to rewrite the verse lyric and then of course the song would need a second verse lyric.
I really got writer's block when it came to rewriting it. I remember I had something about sad eyes or something, I think Tom even said, 'Well how about 'you with the sad eyes'?' He kept encouraging me, 'Let's finish that song, it's a great song.' I said, 'Let's write something else, I can't do it, I'm stuck.' The song kind of languished because I just didn't know how to rewrite these verses. We had done a very rough demo of the song with the original verse and the chorus and I don't know how this happened, but somehow George Martin, The Beatles' producer, heard our very rough demo and Tom heard back that he loved it. Then Tom really got on my case to finish those lyrics. Tom and I sat together and I finished the lyrics with his help."