Tag Archives: music in PBS ads

“Life Is Beautiful”
2006: Vega 4

2006 single, “Life is Beautiful,” by Vega 4. Click for digital.
2006 single, “Life is Beautiful,” by Vega 4. Click for digital.
     In May-June 2012, a PBS television station in the Washington, D.C. area was using snippets from pop songs in a series of short TV promos to hype its programming.  Whoever was doing the song mixing at the station during that time had a pretty good ear for evocative music.  One selection for the PBS spots used a couple of lines from the 2006 song, “Life is Beautiful,” a song by a U.K. pop group named Vega 4.  More on the group in a moment.

     The snippet used in the PBS spot — which ran behind a series of emotionally-charged video clips from various PBS shows – was offered by a male tenor, singing in part: “We let all these moments pass us by”– followed by a pause, then thunderous, driving, heart-in-your-throat power guitar. The music clip used was out of its whole-song context, but the short segment was still quite effective in the PBS spot, conveying the intellectual curiosity and life-affirming upside of PBS programs.  What follows here is some fuller exploration of that song, sampled later below, and its musicians. Full lyrics for the song also appear later below.

     The group which made this song, Vega 4, apparently was short lived, and is no more, as they reportedly disbanded in 2008.  Originally, the members of Vega 4 came together in 1999 as a four-piece band in London, each coming from a different part of the world, giving the group something of an international flavor.  Johnny McDaid of Northern Ireland was the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter.  He was joined by guitarist Bruce Gainsford of New Zealand; Bryan McLellan of Canada on drums; and Simon Walker of England on bass.  Gavin Fox later joined Vega 4 as the bassist when Walker left the group in December 2006.  Vega 4 signed with Columbia Records in the U.K. and Epic Records in the U.S.  Their first album, Satellites, was released in 2001 followed by several singles during 2002-2006.  Their second album, You and Others of October 2006, which includes “Life is Beautiful,” was produced by Jacknife Lee who had also worked with U2, Snow Patrol, and other groups.  The sound and style of Vega 4 has been described by All Music as “part of the relentlessly polite school of dad rock that flowered in Great Britain after Coldplay,” and also similar to groups such as Snow Patrol, Muse and Travis. In 2011, Johnny McDaid joined Snow Patrol.

The Vega 4 U.K. rock group as of 2006-2007.
The Vega 4 U.K. rock group as of 2006-2007.
     Vega 4 premiered in the U. S. when “Life is Beautiful” was featured as background music on a November 2006 episode of ABC TV’s popular show, Grey’s Anatomy.  The song was also used in an episode of the TV program One Tree Hill, and has since been used in connection with several other TV shows, including Ghost Whisperer, Raising the Bar, and Pushing Daisies.  “Life is Beautiful” was also used in some films and trailers, including:  the 2008 teen comedy Sex Drive, the 2010 hit British film Streetdance, and in trailers during 2011 for My Sister’s Keeper and Disney’s African Cats.  Vega 4 received U.S. media attention while “Life Is Beautiful” was getting radio air play and also when rumors appeared that the group’s guitarist, Bruce Gainsford, was involved in on-again, off-again romance with movie star, Scarlett Johansson.  During 2007, “Life Is Beautiful” had a 12-week run in the Top 40 of the U.S. Adult Contemporary radio charts.  That year, the group also played at the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) festival and completed a U.S. tour that ended in San Diego.

“Life is Beautiful”
Vega 4 – 2006

Life is beautiful
We live until we die

When you run into my arms
we steal a perfect moment
Let the monsters see you smile
let them see you smiling
Do I hold you too tightly?
When will the hurt kick in?

Life is beautiful, but it’s complicated
We barely make it
We don’t need to understand
There are miracles, miracles

Yeah, life is beautiful
Our hearts, they beat and break

When you run away from harm
Will you run back into my arms
Like you did when you were young?
Will you come back to me?
I will hold you tightly
When the hurting kicks in

Life is beautiful, but it’s complicated
We barely make it
We don’t need to understand
There are miracles, miracles

Stand where you are
We let all these moments pass us by

It’s amazing where I’m standing
There’s a lot that we can give
This is ours just for the moment
There’s a lot that we can give

It’s amazing where I’m standing
There’s a lot that we can give
This is ours just for the moment
There’s a lot that we can give

     Vega 4’s album of 2006, You and Others, includes the “Life is Beautiful” track and several others done in a similar vein.

     “We didn’t feel the need to hide behind technology or the urge to create songs that ‘please’ or follow fashion,” explained frontman Johnny McDaid of the album in one interview. “The most important thing is that the songs connect with people. That’s something that can’t be worked at. It just is…” And in the case of “Life is Beautiful,” the song does connect with people.

Music Player
“Life is Beautiful”-Vega 4

     Part all-purpose “life celebration” song, “Life is Beautiful” is also a love song – of parents to children, young lovers in relationships, love of nature – and whatever listeners bring to it. The song also hints of life’s trials and difficulties, in lines such as: “Life is beautiful, but it’s comp- li- ca-ted.” The song also speaks to the beauty of life’s details and everyday occurrences, whether simple hand holding, a sunset, an embrace of a loved one, a child’s innocence, and more. On this score, it’s in the same league, generally, with Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.”

     The lyrics in “Life is Beautiful” are simple but full of meaning, as in “our hearts, they beat and break,” or of the struggle amidst the beauty, as in “…we barely make it.”  Yet there is a respect and awe in other lines, such as: “We don’t need to understand,” also expressed in musical emphasis with the drawn-out words in: “There are mir-a-cles, mir-a-cles.”

     The song also appears to suggest just standing still and looking around, as this life really is quite amazing.  Yet “we let all these moments pass us by.”  Somehow, that shouldn’t be, and a remedy is offered at the end the song that appears to be saying that even though all of life’s beauty is “ours just for the moment,” we can and should give back, presumably by sharing the beauty, acknowledging it, teaching it to the next generation. 

     All in all, “Life is Beautiful” is quite a profound little piece of music. Too bad the group that made it is no longer together. On YouTube, meanwhile, a few enterprising videographers have put together their favorite images to run with the song – those of family, children, nature, etc,.

     Additional stories at this website on the use of poignant and powerful music in film scores, for example, include: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” in Platoon and other films; Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young songs in the film Philadelphia; Carly Simon’s “Let The River” run in Working Girl; and Bill Conti’s song, “Philadelphia Morning” (and others) used in the first Rocky film. For additional stories on the history of music, artist and song profiles, impacts on culture, etc., see the “Annals of Music” category page, or visit the Home page for other story choices. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research, writing and continued publication of this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 7 November 2012
Last Update: 5 April 2020
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Life Is Beautiful, 2006: Vega 4,”
PopHistoryDig.com, November 7, 2012.


Sources, Links & Additional Information

Cover of Vega 4 album, "Satellites," 2001. Click for CD.
Cover of Vega 4 album, "Satellites," 2001. Click for CD.
“Life Is Beautiful”(Vega4 song), Wikipedia.org.

“Vega4,” Wikipedia.org.

“Vega 4 Biography,” Yahoo Music.

“Vega 4,” Designer Magazine.

Stewart Mason, review of Vega 4 album, “You and Others,” AllMusic.com, October 2006.

Stewart Mason, “Vega 4 Biography,” AllMusic. com, October 2006.

“Vega 4-Life Is Beautiful,” YouTube.com (with  photo collage, mostly people), 5:51, uploaded by blue90714 on Jun 27, 2009.

“Vega 4 – Life Is Beautiful,” YouTube.com (lots of nature, canyons, sky, etc. ), 6:19.