1 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Rainbow’s Cadillac

From Harbor Lights (album) .. 1993.

Features: Bruce Hornsby (piano, vocals); Jimmy Haslip (bass); John Molo (drums); John Bigham (rhythm guitar, guitar); Bonnie Raitt (backing vocals); Laura Creamer (backing vocals), Jean McClain (backing vocals); John Dearth (horns.), Branford Marsalis (horns.); Glenn Wilson (horns.).

This song is right up there in my all time Hornsby top ten – it probably stands at about #3, having listened to some fairly funky live versions of it. Can’t wait for the Noisemakers version. The steady drum sets the rhythm – I think it’s meant to represent a bouncing basketball, as the character is some sort of playground basketball hero, renowned for his wild dress tastes. Apparently he dresses in “Fancy shirts and shorts of plaid”. For the UK listener, this could connotate either a Scottish or Welsh connection: I assume that it’s a reference to his tartan-style clothing. It would surely be stretching the boundaries a bit if I were to suggest that this guy had an underhand connection with Plaid Cymru, the Welsh national party.

I could point to several notable aspects of this song: The piano/guitar/brass section solos, the contribution of Debby Henry/Bonnie Raitt to both recorded and live performances of this song. There’s also a strong southern feel to the song. This is represented by the organ background which characterises so many of Bruce’s songs (Shadow Hand being one recent example). There’s one particular passage, however, which is both extremely funky but totally incomprehensible to me in terms of its meaning:

“Take a quarter from the collection plate
Every night he would dominate
Jump to the top and pick off a dime
Throw it down at the proper time”

If anyone could illuminate me I would be very grateful. Indeed, you would be contributing at least a small part to my daily life, as I tend to listen to this song almost every day on my (private) travelling compilation.

Carwyn Tywyn


mp3  Rainbow's Cadillac > (Franklin's Tower)
» 6.6 MiB - 843 downloads
Toledo, OH
Band show; soundboard
July 23 1994

Elyce adds: First, to answer Carwyn’s question about the lyrics:

“Take a quarter from the collection plate
Every night he would dominate
Jump to the top and pick off a dime
Throw it down at the proper time”

I think Bruce is referring to the fact that this character was thought of as a neighborhood ‘god’ – so the ‘collection plate’ reference relates to a church thing. Like the people who came to watch this guy work his magic on the court were coming to worship each time.

In addition, while I know that this song IS about this neighborhood basketball god… I always got a sense that there might have been some reference to Grateful Dead summer tour. Lyrics like: “Fancy shirts and shorts of plaid, and a coat of more colors than Joseph had” could be applied to the wild, tie-died circus of people who traveled around with the Dead.
Of course the lines, “Every night about a quarter to ten, from the middle of June to the Summer’s end/people would travel from miles around/ to see the mighty Rainbow knock ‘em down”. At a typical dead show, the 2nd set was probably starting right around 9:45…. and people DID come from miles around, and of course in this case, the ‘mighty rainbow’ was not only the colorful fans, but Jerry’s mighty music.

While this is certainly not what Bruce was thinking when he wrote the song, I think many artists DON’T tell what they were thinking when they wrote a song, so listeners can come up with their own versions…. this is mine.

The interpretation of the verse you quote on this song is as follows:

Take a quarter from the collection plate – is money taken from the tray/basket that is passed around churches for the collection of money from the parishioners or it could me the money that the players maybe used for betting on the games between themselves.

Every night he would dominate = he was a basketball stud

Jump to the top and pick off a dime = this is a phrase that was popular about 20 years ago. Basketball players that could really jump high could touch the top of the backboard. If memory serves me correct, there may have been players that could put money on the top of the backboard (a quarter). Then others would say that a certain player could jump up, get the quarter and make change (two dimes and a nickel). Anyways, it just means that the player was one of those special players who could really jump high.

Throw it down at the proper time – means that some one would throw the ball up in the air and over the basket and he would jump up very high, grab it with one hand and slam dunk the ball.

Best Regards,

From a former basketball player wannabe that could never jump

Tim K


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