Rainbow (also known as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow or Blackmore’s Rainbow) are a British rock band led by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, active from 1975 to 1984 and 1993 to 1997, and again since 2015. They were originally established with Ronnie James Dio’s American rock band Elf, but after the first album, Blackmore fired the backing members and continued with Dio until 1979.
By 1973, Blackmore had steered Deep Purple through a significant personnel change, with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover being replaced by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. However, the new members were keen to add new musical styles and Blackmore found his request to record the Steve Hammond-penned “Black Sheep of the Family” with “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” turned down by the band. He decided to record the song with Dio instead, using Dio’s band Elf as additional musicians. He enjoyed the results, and a full album, billed as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow was recorded between February and March 1975 at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany. The band name was inspired by the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood.
Rainbow’s music was partly inspired by classical music since Blackmore started playing cello to help him construct interesting chord progressions, and Dio wrote lyrics about medieval themes. Dio possessed a versatile vocal range capable of singing both hard rock and lighter ballads, and, according to Blackmore, “I felt shivers down my spine.” Although Dio never played a musical instrument on any Rainbow album, he is credited with writing and arranging the music with Blackmore, in addition to writing all the lyrics himself. Blackmore and Dio also found a common ground in their sense of humour.
Three British musicians joined in 1979, singer Graham Bonnet, keyboardist Don Airey, former Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, and this line-up gave the band their commercial breakthrough with the single “Since You Been Gone”.
Over the years Rainbow went through many line-up changes with no two studio albums featuring the same line-up. Other lead singers Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie White would follow, and the project consisted of numerous backing musicians. The band’s early work primarily featured mystical lyrics with a neoclassical metal style, but went in a more streamlined, commercial direction following Dio’s departure from the group.
Rainbow were ranked No. 90 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. The band has sold over 28 million albums worldwide.
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