IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

She sang the iconic ‘Reading Rainbow’ theme. Decades later, her voice is going viral on TikTok.

Tina Fabrique, the voice behind the “Reading Rainbow” theme, learned about the TikTok trend through her grandson.
Tina Fabrique stars as Ella Fitzgerald in the musical "Ella" on Feb. 15, 2009, at Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, Calif.
Tina Fabrique stars as Ella Fitzgerald in the musical "Ella" at Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, Calif., in February 2009. Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

Some might not recognize her name or her face. But for nearly four decades, Tina Fabrique's voice has been beloved by kids across the country.

Fabrique's voice crooning the catchy lyric "Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high" in the theme song of PBS’s “Reading Rainbow” has brought joy and prompted nostalgia in nearly anyone born after the show's debut in 1983.

In recent weeks, the song has found new life on TikTok as a new generation of young people has turned it into a trend.

The song is often used in videos in which people try to figure out something that seems impossible. The song is typically paired with a filter called “Space,” which takes a person's face and superimposes it gliding over images of the sun, math equations, planets and galaxies.

Fabrique, 77, said she recently learned about the trend through her grandson.

"He said, 'Grandma, did you know that your voice is streaming all over the place?' ... and I said, 'Oh,' because I don't have a clue about TikTok," she said.

The song has been used in more than 333,000 videos on the platform, and the hashtag #ReadingRainbow has nearly 86 million views.

Fabrique said that with the exception of one other time about five years ago, when her image alongside those of the show's host, LeVar Burton, and singer Chaka Khan began circulating as a meme, it is the first time she recalls going majorly viral.

While many people know her iconic voice, Fabrique said it's rare for her to be recognized as the singer behind "Reading Rainbow."

The origin of the 'Reading Rainbow' theme

Fabrique has been a singer, a stage and screen actor and a voiceover artist nearly her whole life.

When Fabrique was offered the gig to sing the theme ahead of the show's debut in the early 1980s, her management at Prism Records wasn't thrilled about her performing as part of a children's television show.

"I loved the song. And they were using a new sound to simulate the butterfly wings," she said.

And so Fabrique went ahead with the recording.

"I don't think I did more than three takes," she recalled.

Then she went on her way, performing on stage and screen, and forgot about her performance of the track.

"I kind of lost track of what happened with the show. ... Every now and then someone would say, 'Tina, isn't that you on the "Reading Rainbow" theme?'"

Eventually, Fabrique realized the magnitude of "Reading Rainbow's" reach, and she was elated to be a part of it. She said she adored how the show took children to the locations described in books — from the desert to the city — and inspired them to use their imaginations.

"It was always amazing to me. I had no idea for a long time how it reached and touched people."

I had no idea for a long time how it reached and touched people.

Tina Fabrique on the 'reading rainbow' theme

Fabrique said that even before social media, people responded overwhelmingly positively when they discovered she was the voice behind the “Reading Rainbow” theme.

She recalled a man from a Broadway show she worked on who was overcome with emotion when he discovered she was the voice behind the theme.

"He had all these rings in his nose and tattoos on his arms. He said, 'Ms. Tina, you did the Reading Rainbow theme?' and he started tearing up," she recalled. "It was just amazing."

In 2011, Fabrique sang an updated version of the song and, finally, met Burton.

What it's like to go viral decades into your career

About four decades after "Reading Rainbow" first brought Fabrique's voice into millions of homes, she's now being blasted on millions of phones via TikTok.

The first documented version of the trend was posted March 11 by a user named @homewithshelby, according to the meme database Know Your Meme. In her video, @homewithshelby showed her face floating through space with the words “When someone is trying to explain the board game rules to me.”

Another video shows a person's face in space as the person ponders whether it's the "S" or the "C" that is silent in the word "scent."

Another example shows a golden retriever questioning why she gets only two meals a day when "human eats eight times a day."

As the trend grew, it appeared few people knew whose voice was singing the song that had inundated "For You" pages. One user, Edward Champion, posted a video to TikTok identifying Fabrique as the singer.

Fabrique, who said two of her friends showed her the video, thanked Champion for shining a light on her.

"It wasn't until I watched him talk about me with my picture in the back that there must be a lot of people doing this, because he was kind of calling them out," Fabrique said. "He actually talked about who I was, what I did. ... It was so nice."

Fabrique reiterated that when it comes to social media, "Tina doesn't have a clue."

However, the recent attention to the song on TikTok has led some users to find her on other platforms.

Since the trend kicked off, Fabrique said, her Instagram following has grown from 600 to nearly 3,000, with commenters thanking her for being such an important voice in their lives.

She said she has been so moved by the outpouring of loved she has received and overjoyed that people are keeping the "Reading Rainbow" theme alive on the platform.

"I never imagined anything like this," Fabrique said. "I want to thank all the young people who listened to the song and relate to the message and watch the show."