This song is about depression and hopelessness, but the setting is an empty apartment. The lyrics were written by a poet named Pete Brown, who was a friend of Cream bass player Jack Bruce, the lead vocalist on the track. Brown also wrote the words for "Sunshine Of Your Love," "I Feel Free" and "SWLABR."
The music was written first. Pete Brown's first attempt at a lyric was something about a "doomed hippie girl" - the song was called "Cinderella's Last Goodnight." Jack Bruce wasn't buying it, so he scrapped that idea and pulled up an eight-page poem he had written earlier, which he reworked into "White Room." In a Songfacts interview with Pete Brown, he told the story: "It was a meandering thing about a relationship that I was in and how I was at the time. It was a kind of watershed period really. It was a time before I stopped being a relative barman and became a songwriter, because I was a professional poet, you know. I was doing poetry readings and making a living from that. It wasn't a very good living, and then I got asked to work by Ginger and Jack with them and then started to make a kind of living. And there was this kind of transitional period where I lived in this actual white room and was trying to come to terms with various things that were going on. It's a place where I stopped, I gave up all drugs and alcohol at that time in 1967 as a result of being in the white room, so it was a kind of watershed period. That song's like a kind of weird little movie: it changes perspectives all the time. That's why it's probably lasted - it's got a kind of mystery to it."
Jack Bruce wrote the music. He was inspired by a cycling tour that he took in France.
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