The man behind the viral “Double Rainbow” YouTube video died Saturday, proving that we really can’t get a fucking break around here. According to the Modesto Bee, Paul L. Vasquez, who posted the delightfully earnest relic of ye olde YouTube in 2010, was 57 years old.
In the three-and-a-half minute video, Vasquez filmed a double rainbow and is overwhelmed to tears by its beauty.
“Oh my God!” Vasquez cried. “Double rainbow all the way across the sky!”
Between tears of joy and laughter, Vasquez asks, “What does it mean?” Apparently it means that there’s a double reflection of sunlight on raindrops, but Vasquez suspects that it was a little nod from God. Either way, the video was a delight and is widely considered one of the purest morsels of viral online content of the last decade, if not ever.
Vasquez, who liked to be called Bear, grew up in East Los Angeles and was a firefighter before settling near Yosemite National Park. According to a CNN interview from 2015, he worked as National Park Service employee, a truck driver, and even an amateur heavyweight fighter (albeit briefly).
His double rainbow video wasn’t an immediate sensation when he uploaded it to YouTube on January 8, 2010. But in July, Jimmy Kimmel tweeted a link to the video and invited Vasquez onto his program. Double rainbow merch, autotune remixes, commercials, a Jimmy-Fallon-As-Neil-Young cover, and even a picture book followed the viral success. The video currently has over 47 million views.
Vasquez continued to post videos on YouTube, mostly about farming around his mobile home and hiking; but none have gotten anywhere near the views of his double rainbow video.
Earlier this month, Vasquez posted on Facebook about experiencing health problems. On May 3, he wrote, “I thought I might be having a heart attack today but I’ve vowed never again to go to an ER or hospital so I just rode it out... [the hospital is] where people go to die, I don’t want to die in a hospital hearing beeps, alarms, getting poked and woken up, hell no!” He noted that it took him several minutes to catch his breath after walking 50 feet, said his lungs felt “congested,” and had a temperature of 100.2, but doubted he had covid-19. On May 5, he was tested for covid-19 and said he would have his results in two days. Three days later, Vasquez died in a Mariposa County hospital.
Vasquez’s life didn’t change too dramatically after his video went viral, but his video changed what it meant to go viral in the early 2010s. Its wholesome content allowed it to gain widespread reach both online and off at a time when so many viral videos were largely insipid pranks, embarrassing falls, goofy news clips, cats, or Charlie Bit My Finger. And if nothing else, Vasquez’s legacy makes it hard not to think of him whenever a double rainbow graces the sky.