When Ronnie James Dio penned the words to Rainbow in the Dark, he likely did not have the book of Genesis in mind. Nor did he likely have anything remotely close to the Biblical account of the flood in mind. Or did he?
The song is essentially about isolation and loneliness and feeling like ideas and concepts are getting lost in the nothingness. Much like a rainbow in the dark wouldn’t really exist, it appears Dio was having trouble getting ideas to flow through the tough times, but the elusive rainbow was what kept him writing and creating. Even though he couldn’t see it, he knew it existed, or at least could exist if he could get some light in his life.
Whether Dio had a specific series of events that led him to write Rainbow in the Dark or not, there is something timeless about the song. It’s likely a bit literal and a bit metaphorical. We all find ourselves in dark places of uncertainty where nothing seems to be working and we don’t really know which way is up.
For Noah, his rainbow in the dark was the ark (and eventually an actual rainbow, maybe… but whatever…)
What many readers of the account of the flood neglect to pick up on, whether you read it literally or metaphorically, is the darkness in Noah’s life. We read in Genesis 7:11 that “the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights” (New International Version).
Consider this… while Noah and his family were safe in the ark, people and animals outside the ark were dying. It was truly a time of uncertainty and fear, even though Noah knew he had shelter and safety from the storm raging outside the walls of his ark. The cover art of Holy Diver depicts some kind of demon baptizing, err… drowning a priest. Ultimately, as humans, we don’t really know who is good and who is evil. Only God does. Many priests are shiny on the outside, but on the inside are just as dark as demons. I think it’s safe to assume Noah knew God and was righteous enough to tell the difference between devout and deceitful, but even the most devout person can have doubts in times of tragic uncertainty.
“When there’s lightning / You know it always brings me down / Cause it’s free and I see that it’s me / Who’s lost and never found.”
I can easily picture Noah sitting in the ark, listening to the rain and thinking to himself, “What am I doing here? This is crazy. Who am I? Why me?”
Is it safe to say Noah was probably friends with some of those people that were killed in the flood? Is it too much to assume Noah wasn’t all sanctimonious and self-righteous about being saved from the flood, and maybe even felt some survivor’s guilt? I mean, if Noah were human, he had to have felt something, right? His whole world was changed in the course of a few months. I can’t so much change a pair of socks without some deliberation, let alone calmly and rationally react to a flood of Biblical proportions.
Maybe Dio felt a little out of place and lost after parting ways with Black Sabbath? Maybe he wasn’t sure he was doing the right thing? Maybe he wasn’t all sanctimonious and self-righteous?
Dio overcame his fear and redeemed himself creatively through his music, ultimately becoming one of the most iconic figures in heavy metal. Noah was spared from certain death and redeemed through the ark. I’m sure after the dove returned to Noah with an olive branch in its mouth, he was excited to know the dove found land. And when the dove did not return at all, he knew a kind of redemption had been given to humanity through his righteousness (Genesis 8:11-13). The darkness receded, and Noah found his rainbow.