Reading Rainbow - Johnny Kemp theme (found opening sequence for PBS children's TV series; 1999)
Reading Rainbow was a children's TV show that ran on PBS from 1983-2006, with reruns shown until 2009. It encouraged reading through celebrity read-throughs of stories, and kids reviewing books with a similar theme, in segments tied together with host LeVar Burton visiting relevant places. The Reading Rainbow theme song was composed by Steve Horelick, Dennis Neil Kleinman, and Janet Weir, and has received several singers over the years.
Reading Rainbow episodes produced from 1983-1999 began with an opening produced by Ovation Films, in which Tina Fabrique sang over vignettes combining live-action footage with hand-drawn animation. In Summer 1999, the opening underwent a complete overhaul, courtesy of Black Logic. Now, it combined live-action with computer animation and integrated clips from old episodes. The theme song received a new rendition, sung by Johnny Kemp. An instrumental of this version of the song played over the end credits. For consistency's sake, PBS attached these to reruns of past installments.
The Reading Rainbow theme song and opening underwent some more changes before the show ended. In 2001, Chaka Khan recorded a new version of the song, and the visuals experienced some tweaks. The "butterfly in the sky" mentioned in the lyrics finally disappeared, making the "reading rainbow" appear to materialize by itself. LeVar also received more screentime, at the expense of a computer-animated dragon. This opening and corresponding end credits music were first used as late as September 2001, and accompanied all Reading Rainbow episodes until PBS finally stopped airing the program.
The latest prints of Reading Rainbow, for DVD and digital distribution, mostly use Chaka Khan's rendition of the theme song. Tina Fabrique's rendition remains viewable on Reading Rainbow VHS tapes released before 1999, and on video recordings from the era. Unfortunately, since PBS did not use Johnny Kemp's rendition for very long, it didn't seem likely that it would appear on any of the show's home media releases. Evidence of its existence also seemed rather scarce for several years, coming mostly from the recollections of people who happened to watch Reading Rainbow at this time. This Wiki identified Kemp as the singer via email correspondence with Steve Horelick.
On December 29th, 2017, YouTube user CDCB2 uploaded an end credit sequence from a recording of a 1999 broadcast of the Reading Rainbow episode "Bored, Nothing to Do!", which features the Johnny Kemp version of the theme song playing in the background. On January 10, 2018, YouTube user Drew Trachier found the opening sequence with Johnny Kemp, though this upload eventually disappeared. On March 4, 2018, YouTube user Vance's TV Archive uploaded a higher quality version of the intro. Judging from the brief shot of the Starship Enterprise, this upload came from a rerun of "The Bionic Bunny Show" (which LeVar hosted from the set of another of his most famous TV shows, Star Trek: The Next Generation); the description explains that Vance got the tape from a trade with "Game Hero." On May 14, 2018, YouTube user ClosingLogosHD uploaded the intro in an even better quality, sourced according to the comments and description from Amazon's print of the season eight premiere, "The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth". Another YouTuber, Alan Grant, ripped the instrumental from the end credits of that print and posted it on his channel on May 31, 2018.
- Reading Rainbow official website.
- Amazon Video page for Reading Rainbow season eight.
- Steve H Music.