This song, which questions the very nature of human existence, was partly inspired by the sudden death of a Japanese friend of the band.
Thanks to its ubiquitous use on television commercials for products like VH1, Mitsubishi and Hewlett-Packard computers, this song became their best-known one to date. It could be argued that this was the track that put the Flaming Lips on, er, many record buyers' lips. Frontman Wayne Coyne told Uncut magazine June 2008: "The key song on the album is 'Do You Realize?' Writing that is like meeting (wife) Michelle, or one of those things that just happens to you where you say: 'How lucky am I?' I can say that I created that song, but I wouldn't have thought it had this other worldliness. I run into people every time we play who've used it at funerals, weddings or when their kids are born."
In March 2009 this was named the official Rock Song of Oklahoma. After an Oklahoma Rock Song Advisory Panel had narrowed down an original 458 songs down to ten, this won an on-line vote. It was then officially authorized as the state's official rock song as part of Senate Joint Resolution 24. Oklahoma is the Flaming Lips' home state, however unlike some of the other nominees, such as "Home Sweet Oklahoma," written by Leon Russell and "Oklahoma," by The Call, the song's lyrics do not mention the state. Oklahoma thus became the third state to have an "official state Rock song," following Ohio (the McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy
") and Washington (Richard Berry's "Louie Louie
Four years later, Oklahoma's governor Mary Fallin pulled the tune as the state's official rock song in a move her office said has more to do with priorities than musical taste.
Discussing the song's success with NME, Coyne said he doesn't think it was a hit "because we're clever or because we're such good songwriters." He added: "There are almost a million songs that play that exact same thing. That chord change is used so often because it works. Whatever kind of mind it is, usually it's a young white person's mind, and if you like The Beatles you like these chord changes. It plays on you in a way that is optimistic and it appears to be telling a story that you already know which is a good story. Then I start singing these words and then right at the time when you're at your most comforted in the song, I tell you this horrible line, that 'Everyone you know, someday, will die,' and it's almost as if you go: 'It's okay,' and you take it in because that's what the music and everything has done. "
Coyne concluded that it was "just a dumb luck combination," that allowed the song to gather momentum and become their best known tune. " At the time I didn't see that," he said. "I remember asking Steven: 'What do you think of this?' and when I went to that line he said: 'Dude, that's a Wayne classic right there, man. You got it!' But even then you don't have any idea that people are gonna play it at funerals or that it's gonna take on this other meaning."
The song has become a modern spiritual anthem despite Wayne Coyne's religious indifference. He told Mojo magazine: "I think atheist means that you're just cold and I'm not cold. I would love to believe in Santa Claus. I'd love to believe that UFOs are real. I'd love there to be a f---ing God that was making sure that that little puppy didn't get run over. But there's not. And so, what can we do now? We can all be God. If we don't want the puppy to get run over, we can do something about it. If we want to be kind, we can do that. So, no, I'm not cold. I'm not an atheist because I wanna be."
Wayne Coyne told NME in 2013 that he considers this song to be his proudest moment. He explained: "A part of you makes it and you don't really think that much of it. Then someone comes up and says, 'we used that song at my mother's funeral'. You can say it's just a dumb song, or you can say, 'I understand.'"
This was used on the TV show Charmed in the 2002 episode "Sam I Am."
It was also featured in these movies:
The Other Woman (2009)
50 First Dates (2004)
How To Deal (2003)
Two music videos were made. In the UK version, directed by Wayne Coyne and Bradley Beesley, four bored farm girls get stoned and see visions of a glowing singer and giant rabbits holding sparkling spheres. "The girls are so excited to see the rabbits that they take off their clothes," Wayne explained.
In the US version, directed by Mark Pellington (Pearl Jam's "Jeremy
"), finds Wayne in Vegas surrounded by models and people dressed as pigs and rabbits. There's also a frog - who was played by an Elvis impersonator/cab driver named Vinnie - and a live elephant. "[Pellington's] version is intended to be a continuation of my video-walking, say, from a farm in Oklahoma to the strip in Las Vegas," Wayne explained on the Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
When L.A. Record asked Wayne if it was difficult to sing such naked lyrics without sounding precious, the singer replied: "Not for me. I think it would be if there were things we did in the show that were ironic or double-entendre. I always have trouble going the other way, where I'm trying to make fun of you or something. When I say, you know, 'We're floating in space, and you have the most beautiful face,' I mean it! That said, there is a power that comes with singing a song that's different than just reading it on a page. When you read it you're like, 'Whoa, that's pretty hokey.' In the power of music and melody, you can say some simple things that don't have as much meaning on a page as they do within the context of a song. Songs are different than just words."