Wednesday, April 7, 2021

the Rainbow connection

I was reading a post by Mark Evanier about people's videos collecting their choices of the all-time great songs from Broadway musicals, noting that most of them tend to be heavily weighted towards recent work and omit most of what us older folks would consider the classics of the field. (And that's OK: it's their lists, they can choose what they want.)

But it made me think of Randy Rainbow, the staggeringly talented and prolific political song parodist, who takes most of his source songs from musical theater, and whose new work I follow through the embeds that Mark Evanier faithfully puts immediately up. He's in his late 30s, but he's versed in older musicals: he uses a lot of songs from them (like his latest, which is from Oklahoma!), and I wondered: how many, and which ones?

What I needed was a complete list of his political parody song videos, but despite his immense current popularity, there is no such list. The list on his Wikipedia page currently lists well less than half of them (36 of 92); his own web site just embeds his most recent work and a few older favorites, and tells you to check YouTube for the rest.

OK, his YouTube channel does have them all, but they're embeds with no list, there's no identification of the source songs, and the older ones are intermixed with other sorts of videos he used to do.

So suddenly I found myself with a new project. Fortunately it took only a day to do and it was lots of fun, because I got to watch a lot of brilliant early Randy Rainbow videos I hadn't seen before. Mark Evanier has been posting him only since mid-2018, but he's been doing these regularly since the 2016 Republican primaries, when he saw off each departing candidate with a version of "GOP Dropout" to the tune of "Beauty School Dropout" from Grease. The best of these was Ben Carson's. My other favorite from 2016 takes up Mike Pence's controversial visit to Hamilton to the expected tune, and with lots of other Broadway references. It's also a useful reminder of how, even before DT's inauguration, we already had in his reaction to this incident a taste of what we were in for four years of. "Grow up!" Randy tells him, but he never did.

And then just after I sent links to those to B., I went on to early 2017 and found more new-to-me and utterly delectable send-ups of songs from two of our modern favorites, Into the Woods (along the same futile lines as the last one) and Cats (taking up Kellyanne Conway's first bizarre locution).

So now I have the complete database. I'm relieved that I recognized a hefty majority of the originals, though sometimes only after some cogitation ("Private Eyes" by Hall & Oates? Really? That's a song I hadn't heard in about, oh, forty years) and I was able to get the rest from the Wikipedia list, by asking B., or by Googling. Wikipedia provided additional information, such the originals' year of release.

I lack the skills to translate this tome into a Wikipedia table, so I left a note on the relevant Talk page of Wikipedia offering it to anyone who wants to do the work, and in the meantime, if you really want it, you can download the Excel file by clicking here.

There's 92 videos altogether, although there's 98 entries because I made a separate line for each song in the 7-part medley on "covfefe" (remember that? four years later, we still have no idea what it means).

So what I find is that the vast majority are from stage musicals, though there are also quite a few from movies, mostly from Disney and most of those from the Disney Renaissance, plus a few pop songs, mostly recent but not all. A full half of the originals date from before 1970, which I consider roughly the break-point between old and new Broadway. There's ten Rodgers & Hammerstein from 3 shows, plus some Fiddler on the Roof, some Music Man, two Bye Bye Birdie, one Guys and Dolls, and two uses of the title song from Camelot. There's also a couple Irving Berlin show numbers, plus one from Show Boat and one from the daddies of them all, Gilbert and Sullivan. Over the time break between old and new Broadway, there's seven Sondheims from six shows, assuming you count West Side Story and Gypsy, for which he wrote just the lyrics, as Sondheim. Of newer composers, Randy's favorites appear to be Menken (thus all the Disney Renaissance movies) and Lloyd Webber, though there's plenty of others: Rent, Avenue Q, Legally Blonde ...

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