'Chocolate Rain' singer reflects on viral video 10 years later
(KMSP) - It was April 22, 2007, when former U of M grad student Tay Zonday uploaded "Chocolate Rain" to YouTube.
At the time, he had no idea it would become one of the first viral videos and he would become one of the first internet stars.
"I feel very lucky because people have 'Chocolate Rain' in their memories, a moment in their lives," Zonday, whose real name is Adam Bahner, said.
Zonday said he originally wrote the nearly five minute long song as a critique of institutionalized racism.
But he said the political message was overshadowed by the image of the baby-faced singer with the deep voice, and the song's meaning seemed to take on a life of its own.
"I put it up as an experiment on YouTube. I wanted some honest feedback, and boy, I guess I got some honest feedback," Zonday said.
Within weeks, the video had been viewed millions of times and spawned its fair share of parodies by everyone from Darth Vader's brother Chad to South Park.
Zonday even appeared in a Superbowl commercial, but he said navigating his internet stardom was overwhelming.
"In so many ways, I was confused. I didn't know who I wanted to be as an artist/entertainer, and it was playing itself out in a massive spotlight," Zonday said.
After eight-and-a-half years of acting, singing and doing voiceover work in LA, an older, wiser Zonday recorded an acoustic version to mark the 10 year anniversary.
"I think 'Chocolate Rain' is more relevant now in 2017 than in 2007. We've been through an entire presidency. President Obama wasn't even president when 'Chocolate Rain' blew up, and now with all the tensions playing out, it is a very relevant song," Zonday said.
Zonday said his dream would be to become a game show host like Alex Trebeck or Pat Sajak.