12.18.18

Taking a Rain Check: Finding Mr. Biv in a Bevy of Places

  • One of nature’s truly phenomenal phenomena, rainbows are created by refraction (a change of direction of a ray of light), reflection (the casting back or mirroring of a light or image) and dispersion (scattering) in water droplets. The show starts when the sky is one part rainy and one part sunny.
  • Of all the rainy and watery places on earth, you won’t find more rainbows than in Kauai, Hawaii, aptly named “The Rainbow State.”
  • No one knows rainbows better than leprechauns. When not mending shoes or creating mischief, these Irish sprites were hiding pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. According to Irish folklore, if any Wee Ones were captured by a human, they’d offer to grant three wishes in exchange for their freedom (we also believe this is where “no, you can’t wish for more wishes” got its start).
  • While no one seems to know its origin, everyone seems to know the uninspiring mnemonic Roy G. Biv as a way of remembering the seven colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). Others such as Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain have tried in vain to replace it.
  • Staying on the Roy theme, Roy G. Biv is well represented in song with ditties such as the optimistic Ballad of Roy G. Biv by Greg Crowther and the children’s tune Roy G. Biv by venerable oddballs They Might Be Giants.
  • However, when it comes to tunes about rainbows, we find a more colorful selection, including:
    • The Rainbow Connection: Written by prolific songwriter Paul Williams with help from Kenneth Ascher, it was croaked by Kermit the Frog in the 1979 film The Muppet Movie.
    • Blinded by Rainbows: Violent and depressing, you’ll find this soft rock tune on the 1994 LP Voodoo Lounge by the Rolling Stones.
    • Double Rainbow: Prosaic pop from Katy Perry’s aptly named LP, Prism.
    • Rainbow: From the 2017 album (and tour) of the same name by troubled rapper Ke$ha, as well as a song from Sia, found on the soundtrack of the 2017 film My Little Pony: The Movie (amazingly, there’s a lot of Oscar and Grammy buzz out there…not about this film, but still…).
    • Rainbow Demons: Hellish wizardry was a common theme for the British prog rockers Uriah Heep, named after the fictional suck-up from Dickens’ David Copperfield.
    • Other semi-notables include Rainbow (by the avant-garde Jessie J), Rainbow Stew (honky-tonk fun with Merle Haggard), Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows (saccharine sweet hit from the adorable Leslie Gore), Touch the Rainbow (by German metal heads Axxis), Rainbows (mandolin-heavy light rock tune from Beach Boys founder Dennis Wilson) and I Can Sing a Rainbow (although a popular kid’s classic recorded by greats from Peggy Lee to Andy Williams to Cilla Black, it’s a bit confusing in that it gets the colors wrong).
    • But our personal favorite, A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow by the faux folk duo Mitch & Mickey, from the brilliant mockumentary A Mighty Wind, from the equally brilliant minds of Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy.
  • Musical groups that embraced the rainbow include:
    • Rainbow: Led by former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and Black Sabbath alum Ronnie James Dio, this British power metal supergroup found commercial success in the mid 70s despite its ever-revolving lineup.
    • Rainbow: Prefabricated, popular but short-lived South Korean girl group.
    • Randy & the Rainbows: Queens, New York doo-wop group who reached Billboard’s #10 spot in 1963 for their scooby-doo-woppy Denise.
  • Rainbows represent on the silver screen in films such as:
    • A Shine of Rainbows: A woman “as rare as a double rainbow” adopts an orphan who saves a baby seal and learns valuable life lessons. As boring as that sounds, it’s actually a very good movie.
    • The Serpent and the Rainbow: As yucky as it is original, anthropologist Bill Pullman goes to Haiti in search of a voodoo drug that turns locals into zombies.
    • Under the Rainbow: Poorly received and in very poor taste, this mess of a movie included more than 150 little people (several who had appeared in the original Wizard of Oz. Co-star Carrie Fisher called it “one of the worst movies I was ever in” (well, it did star Chevy Chase, so…).
    • Finian’s Rainbow: Based on the 1947 stage musical, and with stellar performances from dancer Fred Astaire and singer Petula Clark, this magical tale includes leprechauns, stolen pots of gold and racist Senators.
    • Rainbow Valley: Battling ex-cellmates and lots of dynamite supply this hastily-made 1935 western, starring John Wayne and Gabby Hayes (the most go-to sidekick in the history of Hollywood).
    • Rainbow Bridge: In this 1972 documentary, hippies and astrologers blather on about new-age nonsense in Maui. Thank goodness Jimi Hendrix was there to drown them out.
  • Early in the 20th century as the Boy Scouts rose in popularity, young girls in the U.S. and around the world sought to create their own organization. In the UK, they are known as GirlGuides, and their youngest age division (equivalent to a Daisy) are the Rainbows.
  • In 1922, a Masonic Temple in McAlester, Oklahoma initiated the International Order of the Rainbow Girls, which encouraged young women from ages eleven to twenty to get involved in charitable service throughout their community. Today the IORG continue to flourish and have assemblies in 46 states.
  • Inspired by the hippie counterculture, Rainbow Gatherings began in 1972, and are held annually, usually in isolated forests and often for weeks at a time. Members of these “rainbow families” consist of like-minded folk who reject consumerism and the mass media while embracing peace and harmony. Far out.
  • In efforts to pursue social justice and civil rights, in 1971 the Reverend Jesse Jackson created Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). In 1984, during his presidential campaign, he often spoke of much-needed social programs for minorities, the disabled and other groups who felt neglected by the Reagan administration. Though he didn’t win the Democratic nomination, he was successful in forming The Rainbow Coalition. In 1996, he merged the two into Rainbow/PUSH, which today continues to fight for economic and educational opportunities for a broad spectrum of races and creeds.
  • In 1934, the Rockefeller family felt their popular nightclub Stratosphere (located on the 65th floor of Rockefeller Center) “not only fell short of the mark, but sounded too much like an ordinary nightclub.” Using their influence, the name was changed to the Rainbow Room. With its iconic restaurant and revolving dancefloor, the club was a hotspot for the social elite and A-list celebrities. While still a popular New York destination, at its peak it served more than 34,000 bottles of champagne each year.
  • Adjacent to the legendary Roxy Theatre on Sunset Boulevard you’ll find the famed Rainbow Bar & Grill. Open since 1972, it’s been a home away from home for music and movie stars from Elvis to Judy Garland. Following the call of its clientele, today it’s a haven for heavy metal fans and bands (in fact Warrant’s playing there now, and tickets are still available).
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