“Rainbow Children” – The Rainbow Children (2001)

The opening track from Prince’s twenty fourth album – The Rainbow Children. This album was originally released through the NPG Music Club website on 16 October 2001 as a single track download. The hard copy CD came out the following month in November and it thankfully wasn’t a repeat of the Lovesexy experiment (you can skip “Wedding Feast!”). Five months prior to this release (21 May 2001) Warner Brothers released The Very Best Of Prince, essentially killing any hope this record had of creating any “Prince buzz” amongst the lay music buying public. Releasing so soon after September 11 probably didn’t help either. This was Prince’s worst selling album ever up to that point (I believe HitNRun might now be giving it a run for its lack of money). It was also the first record he released after he changed his name back to Prince after being known as 0(+> for a number of years. The Rainbow Children is his ‘coming out’ album. This was the album that clearly proclaimed him as a convert to the Jehovah’s Witness Protection Society Church Incorporated™ and there is clearly an overarching concept and story-line that he’s trying to weave throughout this record that speaks to his belief system at the time. Releasing the album as a single track download plainly shows that Prince felt this was one story that needed to be heard as a whole (just like Lovesexy). Even the lyric book that came with the CD confirms the single story idea as all the printed lyrics just flow on from one song to the next with no page breaks or song headings or anything like that. One whole story.

There are a lot of elements to the story that wind their way in and out of the album. Most of key story points are narrated by Prince using his “Bob George/Darth Vader” voice that’s been manipulated to be super deep. The story is Prince’s version of the fall and redemption of man centered around a religious utopia (The Rainbow) that is home to the “Rainbow Children”. A paradise (Eden/Heaven) populated by the people that believe the way Prince believes; the enlightened and holy ones. Everyone else appears to be a “Banished One” and determined to destroy this paradise. The idea of a bright and multi-coloured utopia is similar to the idea of “Paisley Park.” However, where “Paisley Park” seemed to be an all-encompassing idea that is open to all, the “Rainbow” appears to be a lot narrower and more restrictive. Access to the Rainbow is dependent on adherence to “law” and Prince sees himself as part of the Rainbow. Admission is not Paisley Park easy, it’s Rainbow hard. And like any rainbow, all the colours run parallel to each other in an orderly fashion, as though they were following a strict set of rules (no mixing in the rainbow!). As a single piece of art, the album hangs really well together and forms a coherent whole. Listening to it you can tell that Prince had a clear vision about what he wanted to do and he went and did it. There are a lot of different sounds and influences on this record. Mrs Thrawn claims she can hear a heavy similarity to some of the stuff on Maxwell’s Embrya, and there is a definite James Brown sound in there too, plus Larry Graham and not to mention Prince borrowing from his own back catalogue. Despite the variety, it all flows together really well and it’s understandable why this album is a favourite for many Prince fams. Musically this is one of, if not the best record of the later part of his career. And it doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a warehouse or put through 17 different mixing programs. The only thing that lets people’s opinion of the album drop is the lyrics. Lyrically, opinion is pretty mixed and if you aren’t able to get over the fact this this album is sponsored by the Jehovah’s Witness Protection Society Church Incorporated™, then you’re gonna have a bad time.

“Rainbow Children” and the rest of the songs on the album were recorded at Paisley Park during late 2000 and early 2001. This song sets up the rest of the album and lays the foundation for the story that Prince is trying to tell. He introduces all the characters and concepts that we need to know about – the rainbow children, the wise one, the wise one’s woman (she doesn’t get a name or title of her own), the only begotten one, god, the resistor, the new translation, the banished ones, the rainbow. If this album were a novel, this song is prologue/chapter one. Scene setting and character exposition.

 

With the accurate understanding of God and His law
They went about the work of building
A new nation:
The Rainbow Children

A spoken word intro. A voice in wilderness. This is Bob George Vader – the voice of the Akashic Records acting as narrator for us. And what kind of story is he telling? Well it sounds like these colourful kids are constructing some sort of country of their own; based on their (apparent) accurate understanding of an unfathomable and universal entity. I’m assuming that’s the type of monotheistic deity that our narrator is talking about here. An all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving god that is perfect and holy in every way (and infinitely complex). So if the Rainbow Children have an accurate understanding of such an entity, wouldn’t that mean that they too would have to be god-like in their understanding? Are the Rainbow Children gods? Is Prince talking about some sort of new pantheistic theology? Is he trying to start a new religion here… (deep breath)… yeah, I don’t think so either. As Prince fams, we all know what Prince’s beliefs are. He’s not ever shied away from them. No, what’s he’s saying is that he and his fellow Jehovah’s Witness Protection Society Church Incorporated™ colleagues are the Rainbow Children and they have the “understanding”. Which is a helluva ego trip to claim you understand something that is apparently infinite and unimaginably complex, but there you go. The phrase “Rainbow Children” is an interesting one. It indicates a kaleidoscope of people of all different colours which suggests an idea of inclusiveness. However, referring to them as children infers that they are somehow dependent on someone and not fully realised human beings in their own right. Or their identity is only relevant insofar as they are the children of the “Rainbow” and their individual identity is irrelevant. But they’re still competent enough to be building a “new nation” of some sort. Doubtless a religious paradise (I’m talkin’ about theocratic order!)

 

The Wise One who understood the law
That was handed down from God long ago
Reflected the true meaning 2 his woman every day
And she surrendered her discerning of it into his care and keeping
For she trusted he would lead in the right way. 

Drums break the silence. Keys and bass. Then the horn flutters in. The opening passage of music is a sweet jazzy groove. A toe-tapper for sure. But who could this “Wise One” be? The one who understands the law. Adam? Moses? Jesus? Prince? Larry Graham? The man so Great he’s able to do all the thinking for his woman so she doesn’t have to burden her pretty little head with such complicated matters. She probably wouldn’t be able to figure out the meaning on her own anyway. Women just aren’t built for such things (am I right fellas?). The use of “surrendered” here implies that the woman has somehow given up and that the Wise One is a conquering enemy up to whom she must surrender her discerning of the law. Because she’s a trusting lass and believes he’s gonna steer her right. Despite the talk of care and trust, there’s a hidden conflict here already. The Wise One’s point of view here is what drives the narrative so whatever language or attitude we are shown during the song is coming from his perspective. It appears to him that she has “surrendered” and that she trusts him but for all we know she may just be putting on a show for her sugar daddy. ‘Cause the ladies be crazy (am I right fellas?).

 

Her children in subjection 2 her, she in subjection 2 the Wise One
And the Wise One in subjection to the only begotten one,
All – forever is in subjection 2 God

“Subjection – the action of subjecting a country or person to one’s control. (synonyms: subjugation, domination, oppression, control, mastery, repression, suppression, bondage, slavery, enslavement, persecution, exploitation, abuse).”[1] So the kids are the woman’s slaves, the woman is the man’s slave, man is Jesus’s slave and they’re all slaves to god. Or something like that. I guess when he had the word “slave” scrawled across his face Prince was just trying to highlight what an awesome thing subjection can be. Slavery’s cool as long as you’re a slave to a good master. Whatever the case may be, clearly we have a pecking order here – child, woman, man, demi-god, god. And the Wise One is the man in the middle. So who exactly is this Wise One? The mystery man translating between heaven and the lowly beings down here on earth. I think it’s pretty clear that this is one of Prince’s personifications. Maybe not as sexy as Camille but still part of the same psyche. Now that Prince has fully embraced the Jehovah’s Witness Protection Society Church Incorporated™ his beliefs are “the truth” and this makes him super wise.

 

Just like the sun, the Rainbow Children rise
Flying upon the wings of the New Translation
C them fly, fly
The covenant will b kept this time
Just like the sun, the Rainbow Children rise

Rainbow children it’s time to rise
Rainbow children it’s time to rise

What we perceive as sunrise is an artefact of our point of view. Sitting and spinning on this old planet of ours. Looking out at a stationary star, it looks like it rises every morning. But really, we’re the ones moving. So the Rainbow Children are just like the sun. Which means then that they don’t actually rise. It just looks like they do from a certain point of view. “But they have wings!” I hear you say. Wings made of the “New Translation”. The Jehovah’s Witness Protection Society Church Incorporated™ published the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in 1961. It’s their translation of the ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts that make up the bible. As a translation it’s not too bad but it has received some negative reviews over the years for inserting an overt religious (i.e. Jehovah’s Witness) bias, which sounds like a weird thing to say about a religious text but as a piece of literature there are certain standards of scholarship that don’t appear to have been met. Here’s a question – if you really believed that these words were the “truth” (and imbued with special powers) then wouldn’t you want to read them in the original language? But the Rainbow Children are flying upon the wings of a biblical translation. Not the original text, mind you. A translation. So they “appear” to be rising/flying (but not really) on words that someone has translated from an original. Like making a copy of a copy of a copy. Even the sound of this chorus tries to mimic “flight” as the vocals flutter between the left and the right speakers getting higher and more prominent and then dropping away (and then coming back).

 

As prophesied, the Wise One and his woman
Were tempted by the Resistor.
He, knowing full well the Wise One’s love 4 God,
Assimilated the woman first and only.
Quite naturally, chaos ensued
And she and 5 others
Were banished
From the Rainbow…
4ever.

You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force? Maybe not. Apparently the Wise One isn’t wise enough to do anything about preventing the devil from stealing his woman (I’m assuming the Resistor is the devil because who else would it be). Even though he knew beforehand that it would happen (it hath been foretold!) his wisdom didn’t give him the wherewithal to prevent the chaos that ensued. The Resistor somehow tempted them both (not wise enough to avoid being tempted either it seems) but only the woman was “assimilated” (weakling!). And just who is this woman? If the Wise One is Prince, then surely his woman must be Mayte. Their divorce was made final in June 2000, just as recording of this album was beginning. Whatever he felt about this (happiness/sadness/relief), he almost certainly would have channeled his emotions and experiences into this song and this album. And I guess “banishing” your ex-wife from Paisley Park the Rainbow speaks to exactly how he felt about it all. Who these five others are, I’ve got no idea. And why they are banished isn’t made clear; since it was “only” Mayte that was assimilated by the devil. Maybe she infected them somehow. After this verse there’s an extended musical section that is meant to represent the “banishment”. Prince’s guitar sounds twisted and distorted and symbolises the work of the Resistor and the assimilation of the woman.

 

Just like the sun, the Rainbow Children rise
Flying upon the wings of the New Translation
C them fly, fly
The covenant will be kept this time
Just like the sun, the Rainbow Children rise

 Just like the sun, the Rainbow Children rise
Flying upon the wings of the New Translation
C them fly, fly
The covenant will be kept this time
Just like the sun, the Rainbow Children rise

The music during these two choruses takes a step up. The jazzy groove becomes more upbeat and the vocals are infused with a palpable sense of joy. No more broken covenants between god and his chosen people. The Rainbow Children will hold true to the new translation and keep the true faith. They are the chosen ones. They just weren’t chosen for their ability to read Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic.

 

Who is ur real father?
The everlasting one
The one who came from nothing
And yet from this one, everything comes
The one who commands ur momma
With the simple phrase “I am”
And every time that she obeys
She gives birth 2 the Son of Man
Who is this?

 

Back to our hierarchy again, with god at the top of the tree, the “everlasting one.” If “ur real father” comes from nothing and everything comes from him, then it’s just one more layer between us and nothing. So really, when you get down to it, we all come from nothing. How an infinitely complex being can come from nothing isn’t explained, but there you go. I’m not sure how the phrase “I am” can be construed as a command but then again, I’m not a biblical scholar or a Rainbow Child. Whatever the case may be, your momma is gonna be giving birth so pack your overnight bag and call the midwife. Interestingly he claims “that every time that she obeys, she gives birth to the son of man”. When she does what she’s told she has a boy. When she is naughty and disobeys, does she then have a daughter? But there is no “Daughter of (Wo)Man”, there is only the son. Sorry ladies, y’all better get to the back of the line.

 

Reproduction of the new breed leader
Stand up and organize!

Reproduction of the new breed leader
Stand up – organize!

Quoting a 20 year old song – what a call back! Your momma is gonna reproduce the new breed leaders – the Rainbow Children.

 

The Agreement –
With every birth, we keep it so
Never changing one piece of it
In fear of what would unfold

The scales would then become unbalanced
And thus begin the fall
The sin of one would then become
The sin of one and all

This is the covenant that we spoke about earlier. The agreement that each generation needs to keep. Spoken in a new voice. No longer Bob George Vader but now a high pitched voice. Not quite Camille but in that ball park just more cartoony. My guess is this is the voice of the Wise One confirming the covenant. Confirming that fear will keep them in line. Fear will prevent the fall. Not love, not hope, not even the law. Fear. And much like the original sin (and fall) of Adam and Eve, one of the Rainbow Children sinning would mean that all of them have sinned (by the power of being next to each other I guess). That’s why Mayte and her five friends were banished; so as not to contaminate the rest of Paisley Park the Rainbow.

 

Rise, rise, rise…

Rise, Rainbow Children, Rise
Rise, Rainbow Children, Rise

 The “Rise, rise, rise” chorus works beautifully with the backing music as it moves up the scale. Prince in the background ad-libbing bits and pieces and hitting some great notes. Everything ramping up to a crescendo. There’s a real joy in the vocals here.

 

The Wise One who understood the law
That was handed down from God long ago,
Held fast in his belief
That the Lord would bring him another one
Who loved him so.

The music drops out to almost nothing, echoing the beginning of the song, the Wise One is understanding stuff on his own now. God’s gonna bring him another woman that he can reflect true meanings of things to. But for now, he’s flying solo. Mayte’s out of the picture at this point and Prince is ready for the new love in his life.

The last three minutes or so of this track is an instrumental outro. It sounds mellow, almost morose to begin with but then Prince comes in with his guitar. It still retains a mellow vibe but there’s a hopefulness that permeates through it. You can just hear Prince’s voice saying a few things in the background but it’s too low in the mix to be able to make out. The twisted heavy guitar comes back for a small section right towards the end as the final farewell to the banished ones and then the song is over.

When you think about the story that’s being told in this song, it’s all about making the right choices in the eyes of god. Understanding the law and being a “faithful and discreet slave” just as the Jehovah’s Witness Protection Society Church Incorporated™ would want you to be. The moral tale that Prince is trying to weave is his vision of what paradise should look like – hierarchical and patriarchal with everyone free to do as they are told. And on the surface it does appear that this song (and by extension, this album) is all about Prince’s new found faith and his desire for a new world order but really when you get down to it, what this song is about and what Prince is trying to get off his chest is the break-up of his former relationship and the formation of his new (and more perfect) relationship with his new muse – Manuela. Prince and Mani were married on New Year’s Eve 2001. Two months after this record came out. This means during the writing and recording period it was all about Muse Mani. The rest of the record goes on to proclaim just how much she actually meant to him (she might even become Queen), whereas this song is only meant to be the set up for that story. And part of the set-up is saying adios to his past and his ex – Mayte; banished from Paisley Park the Rainbow, forever.

 

 

Running time: 10:03

 

 

References:

The Rainbow Children (released 2001)

Embrya (released 1998)

Lovesexy (released 1988)

The Peach & Black Podcast

Wikipedia

Prince Vault

Metro Lyrics

Prince In Print

Prince.org

 

[1] https://www.google.com.au/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=UaQLVtTeILHu8we7t5C4CA#q=subjection

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