In 1977, the song was named joint winner (along with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody) of the Best British Pop Single 1952–1977 at the Brit Awards. In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. More than 1000 recorded cover versions by other artists are known. The song has been included in many music compilations over the decades and has also been used in numerous film soundtracks, including The Big Chill, Purple Haze, Breaking the Waves, The Boat That Rocked and notably in Martin Scorsese's segment of New York Stories. Cover versions of the song have also been featured in many films, for example by King Curtis in Withnail and I and by Annie Lennox in The Net.
Procol Harum's lyricist Keith Reid wrote the words to this song. He said:
"It's sort of a film, really, trying to conjure up mood and tell a story. It's about a relationship. There's characters and there's a location, and there's a journey. You get the sound of the room and the feel of the room and the smell of the room. But certainly there's a journey going on, it's not a collection of lines just stuck together. It's got a thread running through it." Reid got the idea for the title when it came to him at a party, which gave him a starting point for the song. "I feel with songs that you're given a piece of the puzzle, the inspiration or whatever. In this case, I had that title, 'Whiter Shade of Pale,' and I thought, There's a song here. And it's making up the puzzle that fits the piece you've got. You fill out the picture, you find the rest of the picture that that piece fits into."
Most of the songs from that era are still played today as background for commercials or used in movies. Quality endures through the ages.