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All the Covers of the Rainbow

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 06:00 PM

Xylophone (tauress/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

For our new Colors episode, we reached out to dozens of amazing artists and asked them to record covers for the show. What we got back blew our minds.  Here's a list of all the recordings we featured in the show.



Rippin' the Rainbow a New One

The Perfect Yellow

Why Isn't the Sky Blue?

And if you liked what you heard in the episode, we’re offering mp3 downloads of our favorite Colors covers as part of our new Lab Partners digital membership program. The first batch of songs includes 5 recordings made especially for Radiolab (sign up and get the songs, plus other great stuff like digital posters inspired by our episodes, for a $75 contribution):

  • Lost In The Trees—"Pink Moon"
  • The Flanks—"Yellow Submarine"
  • Homeboy Sandman & Jonti—"Brown"
  • Buke & Gase—"Blue Monday"
  • Erik Friedlander—"Blue In Green"



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Comments [33]

Kate from Providence, RI

I just listened to the "Colors" Radiolab, and it was awesome and incredibly interesting (per usual):) The music is also fantastic! Thank you for including such a great compilation and for making it easy to find! I especially loved Busman's Holiday's cover of "Mr. Blue" - I agree that is indeed hauntingly beautiful, and, having never heard it before, really enjoyed looking up the original by the Fleetwoods!

I also just wanted to pass along that there is a brilliant band called The Dear Hunter that created a whole collection of 9 EPs called The Color Spectrum (released in June of 2011), each EP consisting of four songs that are inspired by a color in the color spectrum - it's a phenomenal piece of work that is definitely worth checking out, and also may be great to use should Radiolab ever decide to revisit the subject and make a "Colors II" edition:)

Aug. 27 2012 05:03 PM
Bert Lloyd

That cover of green river was phenomenal. Single please!

Aug. 07 2012 09:15 PM

To listen to the entire "Mr. Blue" song, go to :

Beautiful voices!

Aug. 02 2012 12:40 PM

Thanks for turning me on to Busman's Holiday. Their version of "Mr. Blue" was hauntingly gorgeous -- I rushed to google them and found I could purchase the track off of their bandcamp site.
Well worth the 99cents!

Jul. 21 2012 05:16 PM

I was enticed to become a partner so that I could download the Colors tunes, but it appears that my ID card is to be sent on a slow boat from China. Did I miss something, or do I really have to wait for the dang card to arrive?

Jul. 07 2012 07:46 AM

[I don't agree with what I hear from anyone on the PodCast regarding Colors].
Color's actually don't exist at all. [same as the Time] they are only an illusions inside our optical censor [the eyes ==> including each function of other parts in the communication line to our brain] by decoding the frequency of Waves length that scape from the trap of the Orbits in the elements touched by the Photon [or light]...

In easy words...Color are just the "action" of our organics preceptors of "counting amount of photons"

This concept is based in A LOT of data from Physics, Medical and Quantum science/data.

Jun. 26 2012 04:08 PM
MarcLombardo from Brooklyn

I joined lab partners just so I could get my hands on Snowblink's "Blue Moon" ( but I'm happy to support Radiolab). These are the songs available to me as a Lab Partner so far:

MP3: Blue Monday performed by Buke and Gass
MP3: Blue In Green performed by Erik Friendlander
MP3: Jonti Brown performed by Homeboy Sandman
MP3: Pink Moon performed by Lost in The Trees
MP3: Yellow Submarine performed by The Flanks

On Snowblink's Twitter and Facebook, they mention people being able to have the Full Version of "Blue Moon" if you become a lab partner. Will this be released at a later date? Was it available at a prior time and now I only have access to these five? Any information would be helpful. Thanks!

Jun. 25 2012 08:37 PM
MJ from Eugene, Oregon

Thank you for the great podcast.

Just off the top of my head regarding no blue fruit or flowers: Love-in-the-mist (Nigella damascena) and forget-me-nots (Myosotis), both blue flowers are currently blooming in my yard, and prior to that was the japanese iris a beautiful pale blue. The blueberry and oregon grape are both fruits that are blue on the outside

I do not believe any of the above would create a blue suitable for painting, however.

Jun. 16 2012 07:11 PM
Sam from Orlando, FL

You misspelled "Buke and Gass".

Jun. 09 2012 12:51 PM
rosep from astoria, ny

If you ever want to meet some people with highly tuned color receptors, you need to talk to retouchers. We have to see color in ways that most people would never even consider. It took about a year for me to start really seeing what more experienced retouchers were seeing, but now it makes me mad. Everyone looks like an unfinished image, it's something I can't un-see!

Jun. 07 2012 10:16 AM
Helen from Sydney, Australia

How can I get these songs? All of them - not just 5? Maybe you could sell them as a record and make money for radio lab that way?

Jun. 05 2012 02:20 AM
Jonathan Pham from Baton Rouge, LA

You guys missed a great song that would have been perfect for this episode.

Lateralus by TOOL

"Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
Lets me see."

The syllable count in the song are built on the Fibonacci sequence, a great song to break down and analyze in every aspect.

Jun. 03 2012 01:26 AM
Bob from Ok

Copied from another website:
The color “tehelet”, mentioned in the bible was wrongly thought to mean blue. It is now known to be the color purple, extracted from sea shells found on the beaches of Israel and Lebanon).

You can google to validate or invalidate yourself.

Jun. 02 2012 11:45 AM

Learned about Lab Partners roughly 20 minutes after making a yearly pledge to WNYC. So disappointed. I forsook my own local NPR station (WFPL - Louisville) to support Radiolab, and come to find out I could have given my money directly to you. Keep up the good work.

Jun. 01 2012 11:44 AM
Steve from Woodside, NY

Hey Guys! Just finished listening to Colors and I'll be coming to BAM in June. I know you offer the songs if you become a lab partner, but right now it's a choice between gas, food, and lab partner. One day I'll be a well-to-do private practice psychologist, so I'll contribute my butt off, but for now I'll enjoy the podcasts.

Have you thought about/are you able to put together a CD of all the songs to sell? Would all the artists agree to it?

May. 31 2012 09:59 AM

Hey guys! I'm an illustrator and a former art history/anthropology/applied linguistics major, so your last segment really got my attention. My favorite class in college was Ancient Art History, and a few things really jumped out at me, so instead of writing an entire blog post in the comments section, I decided to write a post about it on my Tumblr blog (I totally follow you guys! :D). Here's a link:

There's some minor Minoan nudity in there, so NSFW I guess. ;p

May. 31 2012 03:09 AM
Richard Cowhig from London

Great show and fantastic new music. For those curious about the classical piece used early in the show it's called nulla in mundo pax sincera by Vivaldi. There's a fantastic recording on a Hyperion cd called Vivaldi sacred works vol 2.

May. 30 2012 09:00 AM

What is the that piece at 5:41? I think it is Vivaldi, but I can't remember for the life of me. ~

May. 27 2012 08:41 PM
Kevin from NYC from BK

I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I'm very upset I can't get my hands on those mp3 covers without paying $75. Yall might make alot more money if you put up the songs for individual download at a decent (read: premium) price per song. I'd pay 2 or 3 dollars to hear Snowblink's version of "Blue Moon" in the morning when I wake up.

May. 27 2012 01:41 PM
Ed Hagopian from Milwaukee

It's interesting to note that "perception" of something such as the color blue is different than "seeing" the color blue. For example, most people who never really have lived in snowy climates just see snow as snow. For example, people might generally look at two types of snow pack, hard and soft, but then just call it "snow". But the Sami people have all sorts of words for snow:

The other thing that's interesting, is that we don't need to "see" additional bands in the electromagnetic spectrum to perceive them. People who have put magnets under their skin can sense electrical fields (

Others have put phone vibrating motors all around a belt which constantly tells them which way is north ( Create glasses that take thermal imaging (Predator Vision, etc). Frankly, there is really no reason why the Mantis Shrimp should have all the fun.

May. 25 2012 09:17 PM
Sandy Marsh from Washington, DC

This is so ingenious! It inspires me to write something now...

May. 25 2012 06:43 PM
Meg from Falls Church, VA

This reminded me of the teen fiction "Gathering Blue," by Lois Lowery about a teenage girl in a pseudo-primitive society where folks are set in vocations based in skill. She is a waever, and her mother was the last of the clan who knew how to make blue, the hardest color because it is not found easily in nature. It's still a classic for many high school curricula.

I am a brand new listener, and have downloaded dozens of episodes...can't stop listening... Or making my friends listen to them and me talk about them. They have been a great gift for a gal whose brain doesn't like to be quiet for long! thanks!

May. 25 2012 12:56 PM
Carolyn from Nagano, Japan

I was puzzled by the idea that blue is always last...because I'm fairly sure it's not true of Japanese. Even today, there are a large number of clearly green items (seaweed, traffic lights) that are called 'blue' because there was no word in Japanese for green until fairly recently.

May. 25 2012 03:04 AM
LILY ROSENBLATT from florida

how the bleep do you do it? you keep raising the bar and 'fascination' but lets make sure the bar and verification goes with it...
1. BLUE IN THE TORAH: The Torah states in Numbers 15:38: "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, that they shall make themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they shall put on the corner fringe a blue (tekhelet) thread." Wearing the tzitzit is also commanded in Deuteronomy 22:12: "You shall make yourself twisted threads, on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself."
2. if we need language to 'notice' a color, and i assume by deduction, anything, then i would appreciate understanding how you ascertain that the mantas shrimp 'sees' the wider spectrum of color???

May. 24 2012 11:19 PM
Chris Marrero from Delaware

I love the Music. but if I donate .. what songs do I get? can I choose or can I just buy the songs I want? I don't understand. I want to buy those songs...

May. 24 2012 03:50 PM
Marian from Louisiana

Wait--how can you say that Hebrew has no "blue"? A thread in the tallit has to be colored blue. It was made from a snail that no longer exists.

May. 24 2012 12:36 PM
Doug from Crete

As an archaeological illustrator who lives and works in Greece, the idea that Homer had no idea of blue as a color is preposterous. I have personal worked on Mycenaean Frescoes that pre-date Homer that have the most amazing intense blue as a main color. Lapis lazuli was often used as a material for for jewelry, We have evidence that the Minoans could make Faience which is often blue in color. Classical Greek architecture, including the Parthenon was painted in very garish primary colors, including blue. And, dating to Homer's time, many Archaic sculptures included blue paint. If you have ever been to Greece you realize that blue dominates in the color of the intense blue sky to the blue-green of the Mediterranean. I have no idea why the ancient Greeks did not have a word for blue, but it surely wasn't for the lack of it in their lives.

May. 24 2012 07:03 AM
adam g

what is the classical piece that briefly plays at around 35 minutes in, before 'a whiter shade of pale' starts? I know I've heard it before, I just can't think of the name!!!

Also, who is the particular performer?

May. 23 2012 08:06 PM

Hi Roxxy,
Sorry, "Green River" isn't on any Soltero records - I just made it for this project.

May. 23 2012 07:40 PM
Bob Calder from South Florida

I was struck by the effect of naming colors resembling research presented on the way verbal representations of numbers affects numeracy. A study of the Piraha using "home signers" as a control group determined that the ability to recreate an identical number of counters/stones failed in people that don't need to use or count numbers in excess of seven to ten or so. (My imperfect memory of a talk over five years ago is responsible for errors here.) Talk about this includes discussion around the Whorf effect and Steven Pinker has put his oar in as well.

Your piece on this could be a good starting point on a discussion of the validity of high stakes testing and cultural differences that correlate high income families with high achievement on tests. Many testing experts claim the effect is substantial. As you know, testing mania drives education reform in K-12. The government of New Zealand commissioned a study on introducing charter schools. But the study recommended the government invest in eliminating income inequality and health care to make education effective instead. After all, the predictors of achievement follow these indicators and not common curriculum.

May. 23 2012 07:27 PM
Roxxy from Seattle, WA

Is Soltero's "Green River" a single? I can't seem to find it on any of their albums... :(

May. 23 2012 05:52 PM

I want to buy only one of those songs, and I can't afford the $75 Lab Partners program. Is there a way to just download the songs individually? Snowblink's version of "Blue Moon" was just amazing.

May. 23 2012 01:21 PM

So if you sign up for Lab Partners do you get all the covers or just the five listed in the last paragraph?

May. 23 2012 12:51 PM

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